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.
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.