I’ve neglected my blog lately. I’m neck deep in revisions for Cry of the Peacock and I tend to shut everything out when I’m in my own books. There’s just too much to mentally keep track of for me to handle much more, and blogging takes so much time. Not that I don’t love and appreciate my readers, but I really do see it as a supplement to the books and not a way to grow an audience.
It’s interesting, though, delving back into Peacock after a year and a half absence from it. I realise I’ve not been as good at taking criticism as I should be. It’s taken me years to learn how to separate useful criticism from the not so useful. And it’s hard to know your work isn’t as good as you think it is. But experience, and time, do offer clarity. I thought this book was ready two years ago when an agent very nearly signed it. I didn’t understand what the problems were. I revamped it, sent it out to friends and editors. Still there were problems. The same problems. And I was heartsick with frustration. I just couldn’t see it. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, either. It was for a lack of ability to see it clearly. Only time could give me that.
Going back into it this time, I see exactly what the problems are. I see that my desperate attempts to salvage scenes and dialogues I once thought were gems have weighed the book down. I read it this time with almost new eyes. “What on earth was I thinking?” I asked myself more than once. Some of the dialogues, written nearly ten years ago, were just plain immature. Others had ceased to work as the scenes around them had altered so much as to make them obsolete.
Looking at it with fresh eyes, I can see that there is a lot of rewriting that needs to be done. A lot of plot restructuring. A lot of relayering and filling in. A lot of development of character and motivation. I’m halfway through it now, and I’m so pleased by how it’s shaping up. I really have worried that I’d never be able to get this book right. It was my first book and there’s a great deal of attachment to it. But I have learned, through trial and error, how the revision process works and how to really see when the focus is right. Of course I still have to send it back out to my editors, and of course I know there will be issues remaining, but I’ll know how to treat them this time. And it will be for different reasons than before. Miscommunications, perhaps some filling in of descriptive detail (I’m always spare with those) or a lack of clarity. But the plot…I think I’m getting it.
A lot of this clarity came by way of just taking that break. But I know a great deal of it also came by way of the good and honest critics who helped me, and did not shy away when I cried and whined at the changes still ahead of me. (For that I’m very sorry.)
I’m so glad now for that experience on Authonomy. Not only did I make many wonderful friends and met so many wonderful authors, friends and not so friends, but I really learned how to listen to criticism. Some comments are only opinion. Some have to be considered in the context of the reader. I think I have one review of Moths from a reader who doesn’t read historical fiction or classic literature, and they didn’t get it. That’s fair enough. I can respect that and I’m grateful they tried something new, even if they turned out not to like it. I’ve had a few people say it’s too long. That’s fair, as well. I’m aware that for some, it will seem too long, and that, quite possibly, it is too long, but it was what I wanted of it at the time. And from that I know to be more careful of keeping my plots moving and watching my word count (boy do I struggle with word count!). For others it was boring. Fair enough. It won’t please everyone. Some feel the heroine should have resolved her issues sooner. I agree with that. At least I understand where those criticisms are coming from. I purposefully dragged it out to show how very difficult such struggles are to overcome. I admit I may have dragged it out too far. And so now I’m conscious of those things.
There are many, too, who loved it, too. And of course those comments are helpful. When you hear the same things over and over again, you know you’re doing something right (or wrong, as the case may be.) Moths is evocative of the era, well researched, convincing and relevant. I love that! (I also love it when people say it’s not too long, but that’s just me taking comfort in what it is rather than what it should be.)
It’s true a book reaches a certain state of finishedness, if you will. Peacock isn’t there yet. And perhaps in a few years’ time I’ll be able to look over Moths once more and see how I might have done it a great deal better. That’s called growing, and a writer must always be prepared to grow and improve. That’s the whole purpose of experience. I used to be afraid of that. Not of the growth in itself, but of being able to say the books I publish now are better than the books I’ve published before. To me it was like saying my work, when it was published then, wasn’t as good as it could have been. It’s a useless way to look at things, and I’ve learned to overcome it. Moths will not be my strongest piece. That’s a good thing. It was what I needed it to be, though. It told a story I needed to have told. And now I can move on. The next books won’t be so personal. I won’t be quite so attached to them. I’m enjoying the writing and revising of them more. And I’m meeting my deadlines! Which means there’s much less stress than there has been in the past.
I’m looking forward to having Peacock out to readers. I know many others are looking forward to it, too. If you’re one of them, you can expect to see Cry of the Peacock this October (2012), and of course I’ll keep the updates coming.
For now, though, it’s back to work for me.