What happens when you start to receive conflicting feedback from your reviewers? I’ve had this happen on multiple occasions. At first, I was pretty baffled. If I thought there was a problem in the readability of the novel one way or the other, I’d have changed it prior to putting it out there!
But I missed something, and two camps of people didn’t. Only, they don’t agree with each other about what IT is exactly!
I decided I needed to take three steps:
- identify the underlying issue whose symptoms my reviewers were seeing. For me, this almost always involves writing trade craft or mechanics.
- fix the defect affecting my storytelling ability
- experiment until I found a balance between good storytelling and good writing trade craft/mechanics
Here’s an example:
In my first novel, Damian’s Oracle, I had folks (hereby known as Camp 1) say they didn’t like the first half of the novel. Some said it was too flowery, others that it was too slow, and still others that it was wordy. Camp 1 liked the second half of the novel, where there was less prose, more action/dialogue.
Camp 2 said the first half was ideal, as it gave them insight and the ability to learn about the characters and setting. This camp said that the second half of the book was rushed with not enough quality time with the characters.
Soooo … What did I do with these conflicting messages?!
The underlying issue was clear: there was a change of pace and writing style mid-story that people noticed. Bad or good – it was there.
My first decision was to smooth out this in the sequel, Damian’s Assassin. For Damian’s Assassin, I chose the style of the second half of Damian’s Oracle: less time with the characters and more action/dialogue.
The reviews: Camp 1 detested the pace and lack of character time, saying the book was over-edited and too rushed.
Camp 2 loved it.
Soooo … what does this tell me?!
Sounds bad, but it tells me I did one thing right: there was no split about which part of the book was better, so I smoothed out the mechanics of my storytelling. Rather than call it quits at this, I took another look at the book and realized I needed to find a way to balance the mechanics with the storytelling (plot and characters) a little more.
This leads me to my third novel, The Warlord’s Secret, which will be out soon. We’ll see if I managed to balance the two and what else I can do to improve!