Getting Feedback On My Novel Manuscript From Novelist Lia Weston, by Rebecca Raisin
I don’t think I’ve mentioned I get star struck by authors. I lose all ability to talk coherently. I blush, mumble, fumble, and look and sound the very antithesis of a writer. I’m in awe of published writers because they’ve done it! They’ve got their much loved story bound and covered and up on a shelf. So when I recieved feedback on my first chapter from Lia Weston, as you can imagine, I was pretty glad Lia’s feedback was done by email! I had a chance of sounding like I had a modicum of intelligence by being able to edit myself. Although, did I stop and deliberate before I eagerly emailed her back? Umm, no. I plunged right in, telling her how much I loved her feedback, her book, and everything in between. I was like a drunken dialler without the drunk part.
Lia’s book, The Fortunes of Ruby White, is the same genre as Mexican Kimono, which is humorous chick lit. We share a similar sense of humour in our writing and, while our stories are very different, it was such a thrill to have someone who ‘gets’ my writing giving me some feedback. And she really did understand it. There were comments like, “Tell me Jonathan comes into the story again later.” (Yes) and some wonderful suggestions on what to expand, like the scene where Sam goes clothes shopping for her plus size boss. I did as Lia said, and now Sam ends up buying swimming briefs for him, although she says, “Briefs is not the right word…”
Of course, I worried that Lia wouldn’t like Mexican Kimono, but she did. She gave me so many great tips on what to edit, expand on, or change. Little niggles, and things I wasn’t sure on, she picked up and said, expand on that, or lose that, what does that mean? and so on. It was like an affirmation for me to continue, and get tougher at the same time. At that stage (about a month and a half ago) I was still bumbling along, unsure of how to proceed, taking the easy way out, and spending a lot of time reading the manuscript until I knew it by heart, but what to change? What to edit?
With the help of Lia’s feedback and some honest advice from Steve Rossiter, suddenly I knew what to do. Like a domino effect, they knocked over the first tile, and all the others came tumbling down. I have just finished another draft of kimono, and while it still needs polishing and more editing, it’s much improved. The dreaded middle, is now more focused, with a tighter plot. My main character, Samantha, does learn a valuable lesson when the crux of the story is resolved. I’ve even added a killer last line that leaves it open for the next book in the series. (This is a series? Maybe!)
Lia’s feedback spurred me on at a time when I felt ready to give up, because I just didn’t know where to start. I had to hold myself back from sending her the entire manuscript saying, “I know you’re busy but…”
Now it’s July and the writing course is nearly over. Where the hell did the time go? It’s amazing how much you can learn from a 30 minute Skype chat once a week. I’ve realised I hate writing outlines, but they are invaluable, and in the long run save so much time, with rewriting and plotting and planning. I have also learnt sometimes you just need to listen, and try something a different way. Steve has told me time and again what I needed to improve and expand on, but I doubted his advice. He is obviously much smarter than me for seeing these holes in my story, but did I listen? No! Not for weeks, until finally, FINALLY, his advice made sense to me – I just wished I’d listened to him sooner.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the course, and have learnt a lot about writing, and editing. Mexican Kimono is infinitely improved and reads better. Though I might be a bit battier than when I began. I keep ‘seeing’ characters from the book in public, which is strange since they are fictional.
I’m looking forward to reading Lia’s second book, which she’s in the throes of writing. We’ve kept in contact and, as long as I never meet her, I should be able to sound semi-normal by email.
Thank you for reading my blogs over the last twenty weeks, and if the universe deems it so, you may just see Mexican Kimono on the shelves in your local bookshop one of these days.
I also wanted to say a big thank you to Steve for all his help over the last few months, also a thanks to Lia Weston for taking time out to read my first chapter, and a thanks to Ben Marshall, a fellow writer in the group, who has given me some great feedback.