First Draft Feedback, & What I Learned

I finished my first draft in early March, and sent it to several friends and fellow writers for comments. I wanted some feedback before plunging into the rewrite.

I had some big picture questions—i.e., is this part explained enough? Do I need to show more of that?—and got some useful suggestions, and mostly positive appraisals.

I told people, “Don’t think about being kind. Kind is when everyone gets a medal just for showing up. If something sucks, tell me.”

Then I got a response from a good friend and writer. Her opening:

I’m going to be honest with you — it reads like a TV writer. It took me YEARS… to lose my obvious TV writing chops. Your writing is crisp, clean, factual. You lay it all out requiring as few words as possible. It’s apparent from the opening sentence. You are more focused on the setting, the plot and the tricks than you are on your character.

Ouch! The adage, ‘be careful what you wish for,’ came to mind. After feeling sorry for myself for a day or so, I began to take a good look at what I’d written. She was right. I was so eager to plunge into the events of my story, I’d forgotten about getting into the head of Alex, my main character.

She had recommended a couple of YA authors to look at, so I read their books (FYI, Rogue, by Lynn Miller-Lachman, & Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King).

Ouch! More feeling sorry for myself. These were so good, I despaired of ever even approaching such excellent quality.

It took me another day or so to realize where I’d gone off the track: to familiarize myself with current Young Adult fiction, I’d been reading whatever was cheap or free online (I had a free trial subscription to a book club, and my Amazon Prime account provides 3 at a time).

The books & my friend’s comments were a wake-up call. I’d been lazy, falling back on stuff I already knew how to do well, and quickly. The Story Store is going to be better than that.

The moral is, if you want to write crap, read crap. if you want to write better, read better.

I’ll let you know how the 2nd draft is going.