Getting critical

28 Feb

The Day Magic DiedI’ve now heard back from four of my five critical readers, and I expect to hear from the final one this weekend. So the revisions of Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, will likely happen next week.

What I love about this team of critical readers is how differently they look at things.

Two of them gave me lists of typos and punctuation and grammar issues. In case you were wondering, spell check doesn’t help. I write in Word, and after a certain number of errors, Word just stops trying to spell-check. You reach that point pretty early in a 100,000-word book with a lot of words in made-up languages.

I’m certain that these two lists will mostly coincide, but having two people on the team who think that way means we’re more likely to find all those errors.

Another person is mainly concerned with story issues. She spotted two things in the book that seemed to work out too easily. She also spotted one thing that made no sense – a character suddenly showed up in a scene where it made no sense. That’s because I had the wrong name in the scene. “Where’d he come from?” From a stupid mental lapse. But I have the power to make his disappear. Bwahahahaha! (Sometimes revisions are fun.)

The fourth critical reader tends to look not only at the story, but at broader social issues. Am I reinforcing negative stereotypes, or bad tendencies in culture, or am I challenging them?  She had a field day with The Dwarf’s Legacy, pointing out that one character was quite unjustly maligned, while another was getting away with stuff. And those things fell right in line with how our society, generally speaking, incorrectly treats those kinds of people. That’s not the kind of thing I want to be saying to readers, even subtly. In fact, it might be worse to say things like that subtly. If I said them outright, your defenses would be up. When they’re in the background, they can sneaking into your brains when your guard is down. And that kind of tactic I save for really nefarious messages, like “Buy more books!”

The fifth reader is the kind who is not afraid to let me know what she, as a reader, is thinking at different points. For example, if something irritates her, or if there’s a question she wants answered, she’ll write it right in the manuscript she’s reading. It’s great to have a gauge on what readers are thinking, because that can be tough for a writer to understand.

The good news is that I can see exactly what each of them is talking about, and I’ve already been thinking through how I can address some of these things. I don’t anticipate the revisions taking long, but I do anticipate that they will make the story much better.

Thanks for your patience as I work to ensure that this book is a journey you’ll enjoy.

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