Facing criticism

Phil stared down into his beer. The delicious Old Speckled Hen coursed through his system and started to dull the pain of what he feared was to come. This was high noon for the writers. The day when all the chickens would be coming home to roost. It was the day he had arranged to meet V and find out what she thought  of The Book.

He had met V three jobs ago. She was a PA who ruled her boss and his department with an iron fist. She wasn’t so much the power behind the throne as the ventriloquist behind the dummy. Grown men cowed in her presence and Phil remembered more than once receiving a verbal slap down over the telephone when he dared to step over a previously invisible line

But this made V the ideal person to read The Book. She wouldn’t pull her punches. If there were problems, they would be exposed. If the plot was rubbish, blushes would not be spared. At the end of the day, if The Book had satisfied its reader then a good job could be said to be done.

OK, I’m hamming things up a bit, but this week I’ve received a couple of feedbacks from our second batch of test readers. I won’t be telling you the results until they have been discussed with Candice but the one thing I can be sure of is that they are fair assessments. Some friends are too close to be honest, they might fear causing offense by criticising a project that you’ve been rambling on about in the pub. Others though, aren’t so close so you don’t feel too bad about asking them to devote time to reading your great work whilst being confident that they will tell you the unvarnished truth.

I made it clear to all my test readers that what we needed was honesty. If it’s rubbish, tell me. OK, so this might be ignored but it’s your opinion. It’s possibly an opinion likely to be shared by someone who we approach to publish the thing. On the other hand, if it’s good then there’s the chance of some word-of-mouth that might just reach the ears of someone useful.

The other thing is that opinions vary. I’ve bounced early feedback off later readers and they have disagreed. OK, it’s not a focus group, but I’m doing my best on a limited budget most of which is spent on beer.

For the writer, it’s important to be open to criticism and make this very obvious. We are conditioned (mostly) not to be confrontational and so sitting down to tell some hard truths about a manuscript someone has spent ages slaving over is very difficult. A pint of beer or cake helps but it’s still a big ask to get someone to give up time to read and then comment on your book. It has to be done though. I mean, I think it’s great and so does my friend Candice. But then we aren’t really the most impartial of witnesses.

Whether V liked it, you’ll have to wait to find out. I need to discuss the results with my colleague first. Watch this space.

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1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

One response to “Facing criticism

  1. Faced critiscm in my job all my life-the client didn’t like the design because the logo’s to small, the client’s wife doesn’t like green, etc. Some is constructive, some isn’t, some is technical and some is just plain rubbish. With books, the first impression i.e. the cover, has to be a representation of the style of the writing. Publishers nowadays run separate editions with different covers to see which one gets bought the most. Like music, some bits you like, some you don’t but it’s the overall impression that remains. Being stoical chaps, I’m sure you will take any criticism on the chin and drown your sorrows in an appropriate manner. For myself, I think your book is a very professional for a first novel, entertaining, readable, quirky and creates a complete world with a good sense of place and we all have met some of your characters in our lives. Also I would like to read more about adventures of Kate and her team.

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