Tuesday, 11 January 2011

More Jam Jar and Pebbly Thoughts

Thinking about the big stuff - the pebbles - yesterday in the context of editing made me realise how hard it is to get any feedback on the essential elements like character arc, pacing and plot holes.  

Think about it.  Feedback is usually geared up to reading a few pages at a time - in my class there's usually a maximum of 800 words for class feedback, with a 2000 word limit for assignments.  That's about the same for most classes and feedback groups.  In the workshopping group I belong to we do workshop larger chunks, but usually no more than 10,000 words at a time.  

So, when we're getting feedback, what are we inevitably getting feedback on?  The sand and gravel - paragraphs, sentences, words.  This is tremendously useful, both for your own work and in learning how to edit, but it isn't everything.  

Perhaps, now so many of us writers are taking MAs and other writing classes, that explains how so many books getting published are one beautifully written page after another, and yet the stories don't seem to be as satisfying as they could be.  The sand and gravel get meticulously examined and groomed, but the poor pebbles are overlooked.  

It's always puzzled me that some people don't get snapped up by publishers when I've read their work and know they can write well. Perhaps a lack of attention to the pebbles provides the explanation.  


Anonymous said...

You're right, Sarah - the structure of a book is definitely important for a satisfying read. It would be great to have more posts on character arc and plotting.

Sarah Duncan said...

Plotting and character arc are both top of my own writing at the moment, so I was thinking of doing some blog posts on them, but will definitely now.

Jo said...

You're so right about the MA courses and publishers focusing too much on the sand etc. I'm getting tired of writers who try to be 'clever'. I much prefer a good rollocking story and characters with humanity and depth. Hopefully, I have provided both of these things in my novel. I haven't had any feedback yet, as I haven't exposed it, but once I've finished it will be nice to get an objective opinion on the overall novel. I'm currently looking into Gold Dust mentoring services.

Sarah Duncan said...

I'm sure because you're aware they're needed you've got them in your novel. Go for it!

I've not heard of Gold Dust mentoring - if you try them, let me know what you think, good, bad or indifferent.