learning curve – #WhatImWriting

Last week I was feeling a bit flat, I’d been doing too much and achieving too little and it was all rather frustrating. This week, things are looking up. I’m still longing for more time to write (and fewer evenings where I just want to go to sleep) but I’ve achieved a fair bit nonetheless.

laptop and notepad

One of those achievements was finishing some beta reading and giving feedback. I’d like to thank Iona for letting me read her manuscript (I know from experience it’s scary putting your work out there in that way) and and also for the fantastic way she responded to my comments. I had been nervous about it because beta reading is not like blog commenting. Your job is not to merely accentuate the positive but to give constructive criticism. You have to figure out what isn’t working (and there’s always going to be stuff that doesn’t work at this stage) and then – eeek! – tell the writer that.

As part of my normal routine I read a lot of books and and observe authors’ writing styles. Along the way I notice things I might change or have written differently (is it possible to be a writer without doing this I wonder?) Given this, you might think beta reading would be a fairly straightforward task – just more reading and analysis with a bit of feedback tagged on the end. What I didn’t count on though, was how it would feel to actually give that feedback  – the conflict between wanting to be nice and the knowledge that niceness isn’t actually helpful at all.

Of course there was plenty of positive stuff to say, and I said it, but I knew it was my job to be critical too and that was tough. I’ve done a little bit of beta reading before but this was the first whole book I’ve provided feedback on so it was a big learning curve for me. It was a very useful challenge though, that I’m sure has helped me as a writer. I suspect there were problematic aspects I noticed as a beta reader that are also present in my own writing but which go unnoticed simply because I know my own work too well. I now feel I can approach my editing with more knowledge and experience and fresher eyes (if that makes sense?). Anyway, I really appreciated having the opportunity so thank you Iona (and congratulations on your book)!

This week I also started making amendments to one of my picture book manuscripts. I’ve loved getting caught up in Millie (my main character)’s world again but I’d forgotten how much it can trap me in my own head. We went for a family walk on Sunday afternoon and the whole time we were walking I was thinking up rhymes and trying to find a decent-sounding, non-heavy-handed way to get the point of the story across. As soon as we got home I had to dash inside and make copious notes. Sometimes I feel I’m not present enough as a parent when I’m in ‘writing mode’ – it’s like my brain won’t stop no matter how far I get from a pen or my lap top. Is it just me? That’s why I like doing the my limerick challenge with my boys – involving them with my writing makes me feel less guilty about my obsession with it!

Other achievements this week: I wrote two limericks, blogged about my kids language development and got two interviews with authors lined up! I’ve sent questions out and am looking forward featuring their responses on this blog. I’ve posted author interviews in the past and I’m keen to do more in the future – I learn so much!

All in all, a much better week than last week. :)

Muddled Manuscript

17 thoughts on “learning curve – #WhatImWriting

  1. Mummy Tries

    So pleased to hear that you had a better week my lovely, you’ve achieved so much!! I’ve just left a comment on Iona’s post about how being able to handle constructive criticism is essential for us writers, and all part of the editing process. Love your limericks, as you know ;-) Have a fab day xxx

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Reneé, I think giving and receiving feedback makes us better writers, it’s just not the easiest of tasks! So important though. xx

      Reply
  2. Dana

    Maddy, so much of this post resonated with me! The beta reading thing is hard, but it sounds like you did a great job offering both praise and critical feedback. I’ve done it a few times and it goes against my very nature of niceness, lol, and I mean niceness to a fault because sometimes I’m afraid to be honest, and that is exactly what a good beta reader is – compassionate and truthful, helpful in their observations. So congrats on getting through that and giving Iona some solid assistance.

    As for dreaming and walking with your family, I do that too, we all do! And I think it’s ok to be in your writing head at times when also with your family. Just maybe not all of the time, which you’re clearly not :) I just posted a link about thi internal struggle of mother writers on my FB author page. I can forward it to you if you’d like.

    So glad you had a productive week! I have a terrible time working at night and often choose sleep or reading to ease my brain, but last night I pushed myself to work and it felt great.

    Very glad to know you in this realm.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      What a lovely comment Dana – thank you! I’m glad the post resonated – I’m sure these things are familiar to a lot of us! I’ll take a look at that link – sounds like a good one. very glad to know you too. xx

      Reply
  3. Marija Smits

    Yes Maddy, I definitely have that thing where I can be with family but my mind is on one of my writing projects… As Dana says, it’s fine, really, just as long as it’s not all the time!

    And, obviously, as an editor I do a fair bit of reading of manuscripts and then I have to do the editing… The good thing is that because it is a professional relationship it means that I am comfortable giving an honest/useful critique. But when it’s friends or acquaintances it can be a lot harder. Well done you, though, for being as professional as possible. It is definitely the right thing to do, and in the long-term interests of the writer.

    Glad it was a better week. :-)

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Glad to know I’m not alone in the writing/parenting ‘in your head’ thing. I do think it’s unavoidable sometimes so it’s important to make sure there are times when you are only focussed on your family – which I’m sure we all do! I can see how professional editing would be easier than beta reading for friends but it’s all excellent experience for us as writers. Thanks for commenting Marija xx :)

      Reply
  4. Emily Organ

    I agree Maddy, you learn more about writing by reading and and giving feedback to others on theirs. It’s common to find they make the same slip ups that you do yourself and it definitely makes you more aware of your own writing style. It’s a great opportunity to share you work with others and get feedback too – which is why #WhatImWriting works so well! Good luck with your own work, it sounds like the ideas are flowing and I hope you find some time to sit down and progress with it all x

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Emily! Yes #WhatImWriting is definitely having the desired effect – I love our little group! I think it pushes us all on in many ways. So glad you are part of it. xx

      Reply
  5. Iona@redpeffer

    It’s the first time I’ve ever asked for feedback in these circumstances and what I have got back has been really positive. I knew things needed working on in certain areas, but it’s so helpful to have other voices re-enforcing that, as well as opening up ways for it to work. As I said the ultimate aspect for me is that the manuscript is essentially good and is something worth pursuing. That for me is the best feedback I could have received. And yes, I too am often not entirely ‘present’ when I’m off inside my own head on some path or other so I totally recognise that feeling x

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      I’m glad the feedback has been useful Iona and I look froward to hearing more about your book in the future! Thanks for commenting xx

      Reply
  6. Rachael

    Hi Maddy,

    I totally recognise that feeling of not being present – I do often drift off in my own head when with my family! Sometimes I have to stop and get out my phone or a notebook to write something down to get back to the present moment. If not, I can always count on my son to bring me back! As for giving feedback, it’s a tough one isn’t it? You want to be nice but there is a balance – it’s important to be honest too, which isn’t always easy…

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Exactly Rachael – although I guess it gets easier with time. And as for being in your own head – I probably should carry a notebook as trying to remember things is probably even more distracting than just thinking them up and writing them down as I go! Thanks for commenting. xx

      Reply
  7. Sophie Lovett

    Glad to hear this has been a better week! I just caught up on last week’s post too and totally identify with where you’re at. That election result has a lot to answer for (and no doubt will continue to do so, sadly, over the coming months…)

    It sounds like you are an awesome beta reader – thoughtful, sensitive and meticulous. I might have to pick your brains next time I have a project that needs looking at ;) xx

    Reply
  8. Nicola Young

    I agree with everyone about the absent feeling. Having ideas in your head and thinking about writing them down doesn’t go together well with family life, but those moments when you can really getting in to the world you’re creating are great aren’t they? Sounds like you’ve done really well with the beta reading.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Nicola, yes I love the feeling of getting into a whole new world! If only there were more hours in the day to explore it! xx

      Reply
  9. Chrissie@muddledmanuscript

    What an ace week for you, Maddy! And well done with giving feedback. It’s hard when you don’t know what the reaction is going to be, especially if you know that the feedback isn’t what the author expected. As writers we need to put on our big girl/boy pants and suck it up, (cry for a few hours and eat some chocolate) and get on with the fixing the bad. As beta readers we have to make sure we’re not lazy with our words and can give concise and accurate crit so we don’t end up just saying “Yeah, this is good, but this bit? Nah, ditch it.”

    Reply

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