Tonight, I only managed to start writing this at around the exact time I intended to go to bed. It’s therefore going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness.
Firstly, I heard a quote today which reminded me about my blog about atychiphobia. It’s from Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, which is my current audiobook of choice. The eclectic character, Wit, makes this statement.
…the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”Wit, Oathbringer
This line struck a chord with me, as it highlights the issues around being afraid of failure. My aforementioned blog points out the paradox of being no use also feeling like a failure.
I’d also like to disuss my friend’s novel, from yesterday’s post. I’m around halfway through, and thoroughly enjoying it, but there are some areas which I feel could be improved. However, I’m now in that situation that many may find themselves in wherein I do not know how to provide criticism of the novel without it being hurtful. There are a few things I don’t want to do:
- Hurt my friend’s feelings. I don’t feel like the whole novel is bad or anything; on the whole it’s pretty good. But I don’t want to point out every little thing I dislike about it, or think could be improved, as it might come across as a big criticism.
- Overstep my role. As far as I’m aware, she wants feedback once I’ve read it, but it’s hard to tell how much I’m supposed to give. For example, there are some errors in punctuation which I’ve noticed throughout, but I don’t think it would be wise to take a red pen to my copy without asking first.
- Be too vague. I’m a writer too, and if I received feedback from a friend which went something like “I really liked the plot and characters A, B and C,” I would either assume that they hadn’t really read it and not paid attention to the details, or worse – that they didn’t like it and are trying not to go into too much depth.
If I ever finish my own novel, I think that once I reached a point where I was sending it to people I knew, I’d clearly let them know of my expectations for their reading. For example, I would ask my partner not to look too deeply, and just tell me whether he enjoyed it, and whether it made sense. If I was in a particularly fragile state about it, I might ask him just to give me assurances that I’d done a good job, regardless of the reality. My writer mother, however, would be asked to read it twice: once for content and twice for technicalities.
So, to solve this issue, I’m going to carefully word my next communications with my friend:
- I’ll start by telling her that I’d finished it (which I intend to do in the next couple of days – it’s not nice to wait). I’d also include a positive message in this, but not go into too much detail.
- I’d then ask her what her next steps are. For example, if she intends to find an editor, I don’t need to make any real input other than changes to glaring errors, and perhaps suggestions based on what I would like to have seen. However, if she intended to find an agent or publisher next, I’d likely offer to give it a slightly heavier proof-read, and be a little harsher and more specific.
- Either way, I believe it’s important to balance the suggestions for improvement with the parts I liked. And I like many aspects of it, so that won’t be difficult.
It seems there’s an art to this, especially when you know the person. Hopefully, it all goes smoothly and I get to see where my friend’s novel takes her.