Well I have had the comments back from my current reader.
He provided me with an 8-page summary of his comments as well as a marked up copy of the story with just about something on every single page! It felt a bit like being back at school and having my homework essay returned with ‘not good enough’ written on it. I have to admit that my first read through of the comments was a bit disheartening and I began to think that I may have bitten off more than I can chew in trying to write a novel. But isn’t that the whole point of having someone else cast their eyes over the story before rushing to publish it?
I guess I’m lucky that I have a friend who is capable of being open about what he thinks and is not afraid to tell things as he sees them. Yes, his critique made uncomfortable reading, after all none of us likes our best efforts to be found wanting. I think the amount of rewrite that might be necessary to address his concerns did get me down. But if he raises these comments then so too will others and let’s face it, I’d rather read those criticisms from a well-meaning friend than in an anonymous, and potentially damaging, review on Amazon.
Without going into too much detail, the main criticism he put forward concerned the technology I describe. In his opinion it is too advanced for the story which leads to several awkward unanswered questions (for those with a questioning mind). Fixing this is going to require a substantial rewrite. At the moment I’m analysing it to determine how much of it I can rescue by offering better explanations about why it is the way it is. Also some of the questions he poses about it are answered in the second book, so maybe I need to rethink that one as well and somehow incorporate bits of book 2 into it without giving away the plot of that book. Unfortunately the follow up books rely upon this technology being the way it is so I need to retain it as much as possible.
He also picked up the fact that the novel was originally three separate but related novellas. Although he didn’t specifically mention that, he pointed out out that a five year gap between parts 2 and 3 didn’t sit well with the flow of the rest of the story as a novel. My conversion to novel format didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I need to do something to bridge that gap.
As well as the above he also noted a number of other points including some inconsistencies in characterisations and a couple of plot holes which I will try and address.
So having slept on it, I have picked myself up and come up with a plan. For the next week (or maybe longer) I will be in planning mode using good old-fashioned pen and (lots of) paper in an attempt to iron out some of the inconsistencies and those awkward questions about the technology. Then I reckon on a couple of months maybe to do a rewrite. My estimates may be way out but the important thing is I now have a focus. As a start, I created a document listing the main points and then without re-reading the story tried to address them with my knowledge of the world I had created. It was interesting how this brought home to me vital elements which were missing in the written work.
The point it proves to me is that sometimes we can just get too close to our story and we fail to see the bigger picture, particularly from a reader’s perspective. It’s no good being able to explain certain events verbally when challenged about them; the explanations should have been in the story itself.
I hope at the end of all of this I end up with a stronger story much more worthy of publishing.