Outside Eyes

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I think it's very easy to underestimate the importance of fresh eyes when you're writing, and I don't mean giving yourself a break and coming back to a set-aside project. I mean getting an outside opinion. Yes, beta readers can do this well, but I've also discovered that having someone read a section of an in-progress story has its own merits.

Yesterday, I got some feedback from a contest entry on one of my WIP. (Yes, the one that should have been finished 3 weeks ago. Life gets in the way of art sometimes, as do migraines./whinge.)
Most of the things the person who read it pointed out were *face/palm* moments, and thankfully, most of them I'd already caught, so I'm not a total loser. (I will, grudgingly admit to having missed some spell-check proof mispellings... GRRR.)

The thing that this person's insight did, was pinpoint something that was inherently wrong with a particular scene. It was something I couldn't find, no matter how many times I read it, even though I knew there was something slightly off with the presentation.

I tried fiddling with word choice and tone, but I liked those they way they were. I added dialogue, but that didn't help the awkwardness of the situation. It did help the characterization, so it stayed, but I was no closer to figuring out what I'd screwed up.

Then BINGO. The person who gave me feedback pounced on it straight off. There was a component of the scene itself that made absolutely no sense given the world building. I had a secure bunker (like a fallout shelter) without running water (for a reason). That worked, but the fact that none of the adults had ever thought to stock it with supplies didn't. THAT was the thing I snagging myself on. Everything, everywhere else, was so carefully planned and plotted that finding these kids in a bunker with no food or water (One night only, don't flay me.) was totally out of character for the entire cast of characters.

I probably would have sat in front of my computer for another month before figuring that out on my own.

When we read our own work, we often read intent. Others read results. If you want to better your results, then you're probably going to have to let go of your "baby" and send him to the sitter for a few days.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go break into a secure bunker and drop some cookies and juice boxes for the munchkins.

5 Chiming In:

Anonymous said...

Maybe they stocked it a long time ago and by now it has spoiled...

Simon Hay said...

And when fresh eyes find that one thing, it usually leads to being able to see other little problems.

Nicole said...

fresh eyes are great, I'm just having trouble finding them!!

dolorah said...

Every scene I post seems to have something out whack be mentioned. I have noticed a difference in the feedback between writers and readers who don't write.

I appreciate all the feedback though. Most of it is very useful.


Travis Erwin said...

Yeah, life can be hell on the ol' Muse.

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