February 22nd 2016
Today I read aloud an excerpt from my novel to a group of half-strangers and then let them tell me everything that was wrong with it. And, to be fair, they didn’t say as many bad things as I’d first assumed they would.
It was difficult, very difficult, for me to read it, and for them to have read it. It was almost like opening my diary and letting them take a look, except not anything like that because the closest thing I have to a diary is this blog and this blog is very public, so that analogy doesn’t really have an depth.
It was scary, because the previous bit of work that I’d brought in was a short bespoke piece that I’d written for the occasion, and thus I didn’t have much, both time and effort, invested into it. My novel, however, has been gradually chipped away at over a few years and a couple hundred hours. So it was scary to have to present it so openly for critique.
But most of the criticism was just small editorial things: unnecessary repetition of words, elongated clauses where a period would’ve worked, and a misplaced ellipsis.
One critic said of the excerpt ‘if the rest of the book is as good as this bit then you’ve got a golden one there’, so I took that pretty well.
When I was asked at the start “James, did you bring something with you today?” I was tempted to say no, because of how scared I was of presenting it. But I’m glad I didn’t. Because people seemed to respond well to/enjoy the piece, and that’s given me a new confidence in both it and myself.
They’re all very clever writers, see, and positive comment means a lot, as does the constructive critique.
Now I just need someone to deconstruct, edit, and reconstruct the other 59,400 words of the novel, and I might be somewhere close to being finished.
Until tomorrow, any takers?