WIM Third Week Post: CP Round
Part 1: Processing Feedback
This weekend, Waiting to Jump went to three critique partners. I thought I would start this week’s post with how I process feedback—general (this week’s round) and targeted (next week’s round).
To be honest, I always open these documents feeling something akin to despair, even when there’s no reason to be. Not only do I expect to be confronted with things that people don’t like, the document itself is now visually overwhelming. But once I get over the nausea, I settle down and take out a yellow legal pad. I give each critique partner a third of a page with their name as a header. If I was doing it with a novel, each chapter gets a page with the critique partner’s name on it. Then I’ll settle down with a cup of tea and read the comments for each document as dispassionately as possible.
It used to bother me that readers would have such different ideas of my “problems” and how to fix them. Particularly galling were comments where one reader loved something, and another found it cut-worthy. I’d stamp around and wonder why people couldn’t be objective. Confronting feedback from multiple critique partners is bound to result in a number of opinions on your story: all of them valid, all of them different, and all of them subjective, and each with different ideas of how your story could be improved. So, what do you change?
Exactly what you want to change.
Here’s how I process CP feedback.
First, I find where all three CPs agree that something isn’t working. I write each comment on that particular part of the story down under each CP’s name. Even if I disagree, this particular part of the story needs attention.
Barring agreement on a developmental issue, I look at lines that got comments. If one line gets three different comments, it means that something about that line is drawing attention to itself. It’s sticking out. It might be sticking out too much! Good prose should be seamless. It should not distract. If my prose is stabbing people in the eyeballs, I may be spending too much time trying to make my words beautiful instead of making my story beautiful.
Secondly, I find where two CP’s agree that something isn’t working. Same if there is a line that has been commented twice. I will look at these carefully. If I agree that there’s an issue there, it’s on my list to be checked.
All remaining comments will be filtered through the lens of my vision. I looked hard at this critique round for one item on my revision list. Was my story surreal enough, in keeping with what I wanted for the piece from the beginning?
Here is how Waiting to Jump fared in the critique round:
0 agreement of comments in developmental issues.
Five lines with consistent comments.
–copied on by mistake
—nailed him by numbers
–he’d have to jump
–trapped behind the glass
–knew who Batlady was
No feedback was uniform on these lines. However, they seemed to catch the eye, and so I’ll look at them and see what I can do to make them better.
Where my story didn’t fare as well? Suspension of disbelief when it came to the pseudo-realistic details of the story: Kenny’s job, his firing, his ability to get back in the building with his weapon of self-destruction, and how he gets out again. This is a problem, because I wrote this story with a surreal idea in mind. The first draft in particular had the feel of a very skewed reality throughout.
The question I must ask now is how to achieve surrealism from beginning to end without having any question arise of “how can this happen?” One thing I want to resolve in this next draft is creating something utterly fantastic from line one to last. I’ll have to dig a little deeper to create the piece I have in mind.
Another item that came up is a need for a touch more emotional reaction by Kenny in the piece. This is an area where I expected to have trouble, but given that there are exactly two areas that need attention on this front, I’m hoping to incorporate some of the surreal into the emotional impact of the story, too.
After sorting critique feedback, a chat with a trusted CP, and a special adviser on the accounting aspect of Kenny’s life, I’m ready to tackle the second part of CP feedback. Brainstorming.