Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Plot Thickens . . . and Thickens

I got some interesting feedback from my agents this past week when I sent them a novel I recently finished. The writing process was different this time around –– as I worked, I received feedback along the way –– and my agents noticed a difference in the finished product, liking some things, but the major criticism was unexpected: they found the plot to be too complicated.

It got me thinking about the process I used to write the book. I have three dear friends who read the book as I wrote it. I had assembled a dream team of advanced readers. One is an avid reader, who offers excellent feedback regarding the overall storyline; one is a former writing center director, who line edits as well as anyone I’ve worked with and calls me on any and all grammar bluffs; and the third is a librarian, who knows my work and falls somewhere between the other two in terms of the feedback she offers. As I wrote –– on a live Google document –– I noted their feedback in the margins and their running commentary, including guesses at what might happen in the text next.

When I got my agents’ feedback –– noting the complexities of the plot and wondering if I’d gone too far for readers –– I had second thoughts, not about the advance readers and their respective talents, but doubts about the way I used them.

I worked hard on the book. It was a much slower process than any book I have written: 18 months, total. Too long for a 75,000-word manuscript. Stephen King in On Writing says three months is his max. (I do, however, have a day job.) But I think I did spend too much time on the draft. I also think that was due to my decision to ask for feedback as I worked. I noted the commentary and the guesses at where the story was headed. Admittedly, there was a lot of going back and widening the web and adding subplots.

And the plot in this opening draft probably got away from me.

The book is the first in what I hope to be a new series. I thoroughly enjoy the characters, a husband and wife team, and the setting. As I go at the second draft, I’m working alone. No one will see it until it’s done.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I think you are right to wait until you finish to show your beta readers your manuscript. Not only will those giving you feedback have a better idea of what your novel is about but so will you – and the feedback will be more helpful. Good luck with that second draft!

Unknown said...

Yes, you need to use your own creative vision and sensibility to draft this book completely, without the cacaphony of other voices. A few years ago I was part of a short-lived fiction group whose members brought WIPs as they were being written. I believe the WIPs were damaged by the premature critiquing -- and I'm sure that same practice was what brought down the group eventually.