So the alpha draft of my fantasy short story is completed, and the first round of revision is also completed. So far this has been a pretty weird experience resulting in some mixed feelings. I like going back and looking at the words I’ve laid down and figuring out how I can make them better. I like to think of it as dragging a whetstone along my work, sharpening its ability to appeal to my target audience. However, I can have a good deal of trouble working with some of the feedback I get.
The experience, thus far, has made me think of a Neil Gaiman quote I read awhile ago.
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
I’ve run into both ends of this quote, and I feel it really hits the nail on the head. My alpha writing is available to most anyone who wants to read it and I’m certainly happy to receive any comments I get, be they negative or positive. (How can I expect my writing going to get better and more appealing if I can’t take criticism.) But I’m not going to start actively asking for opinions till I’ve polished the story a great deal more. Even so I’m fortunate enough that my girlfriend and brother both give me feedback. My girlfriend’s feedback normally falls in the first half of Niel’s quote, she’ll come across something in my writing and say “I don’t really feel like this person would talk this way.” I’ll ask back “Well how should they talk?” and she’ll say something like “I’m not really sure, but from what I’ve learned about this character so far, this part of the dialogue just seems wrong.”
I go back and read it, and I usually find she’s right.
Then on the other hand I have my brother. He’ll read something he does not like and he will tell me exactly why he doesn’t like it and what I should do to fix it. I’ll go back and look at what he said and most of the time, if the statement revolves around plot, I don’t at all agree with him. (If it revolves around word usage or non plot related things I do tend to agree with him though).
Overall though I’ve really enjoyed the first pass at the story, I feel like I’ve been able to strengthen characters and increase the weight that certain situations carry. I’m a bit worried that as I make the third or fourth pass that this will begin to get stale, leaving me to hunt down minor problems with the story. I’m still determined to make those passes though, if you want something to really shine, you’ve got to polish it to a high luster. That just simply isn’t something you can do without making multiple passes. In my humble and inexperienced opinion that is.
So what are your thoughts on and experiences with revisions? Do you have a specific code you adhere to when you begin? Are there specific people who you trust implicitly? Let me know in the comments section.