Request for Feedback

Yes, I’ve been writing. I know I said I wasn’t going to until after the move. I was wrong. I’m deep into “the mess in the middle” as some writers call it. Revising, twisting the plot and trying to get everyone from the beginning to the ending in a way that makes sense without being predictable. It’s frustrating, because every time I think I know what happens next, something else happens. At least things are happening. But my mind keeps going back to the beginning. I’ve re-written it several times and will re-write it again later. But I keep thinking about it. Usually that means I screwed up somewhere. So I thought I’d ask for some feedback from the demented discerning few of you who still read this blog.

Correct my grammar and spelling if you must, but that’s not my concern right now. I want to know: Does it make sense? Do you care about these characters? Do you want to know what happens next? Would you keep reading?

Please do not say, “Of course I’d read it, you wrote it.” My mom is the only one allowed to say that. Pretend you have no idea who wrote it. It’s not a romance, though there is sexual tension between two of the main characters. It’s a thriller. You’re in a bookstore and you pick it up and turn to the first page. What do you think? If you don’t want to comment on the blog, send me an email: [click here] Yes, you over there in the corner. I want your opinion. You don’t have to be nice. Really. [BTW, I tried to get rid of the double-space formatting so this wouldn’t be so long, but it’s late and I’m too impatient to keep messing with it.]

I’m not posting this anywhere else and I’m only going to leave it up for maybe a day. Then probably I’m going to delete the excerpt part of it. I don’t know why, I’m strange that way. If you miss it, so sorry. Oh, and I changed the title. Here it is:

* * * * *

7/9/08, 12:45 AM, edited to add:

Okay, so I said I’d leave it up for maybe a day and I did.

Thank you so much to everyone who commented here and sent email. The input has given me much to ponder and it will help immensely in the re-write. Yeah, I’m going to take it apart and do it again. And again. Whatever it takes.

The hardest part of writing — and the best part, in my opinion — is editing. I think the trick is to keep it fresh and not lose your voice or your consistency, while at the same time making it stronger and more clear. Unless, of course, you’re misleading people on purpose. [grin]

I liked one of the earlier versions I wrote of the scene with Annie, but it was mostly “telling.” I remember thinking it would be a lot of work to fix that scene and maybe I could do it another way. Well, the other way is just not doing it for me. So I’m going back to the earlier version to see what I can salvage. Maybe I’ll post it again once I’m done. Then you all can tell me whether you think it’s an improvement. Or point out where I’ve screwed it up even worse.

In the meantime, I’m removing the excerpt from this post but leaving the comments. I know I really dislike it when someone blithely deletes my writing for no good reason and I’m going to assume others feel the same. Besides, everything you all have said is far too important to me not to leave it just as it is.

Again, thank you for your help.


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6 responses to “Request for Feedback

  1. me

    You said I can’t say “Of course I’d read this, you wrote it.” Well, tough. This is good stuff. I’d read it. I want to know why the professor thinks Annie is a bitch when clearly he’s in the wrong. I want to know what Genie and Baxter used to do (and may still do). I want to read more!

    The only question I have, and I’m sure it is answered later or it’s just because she knows him so well, is this (and please don’t hate me but you asked):
    She was “…confident now that Baxter was unaware of the notes.” All because of a single sentence where he denied knowing how many are still alive? Couldn’t he be lying? His throat-clearing was probably just a proper British way of avoiding the subject of death, but cynics (like me) are wondering if he was avoiding the subject for other nefarious reasons. (Of course, I doubt you’d say “the butler did it” so I am probably wrong…) Maybe it’s just the word “confident.” Or maybe you meant to put that doubt in my head. Or maybe you should just ignore me.

    But I like it.


  2. GatorPerson

    Can’t read well on the screen, no patience. Sooo print it out. Cartridge finally empties midway. Print again back-to-front. Another foul up. Forget the fancy dancy stuff. Just print. I’ll read it and email sometime after Sunday.

    So I’ve gotten rid of all your snafoos by using my printer; so it’s bound to be excellent!

    ncsfhplj: Exactly what I said to the printer.


  3. Diane (TT)

    I am intrigued and curious about the characters, and what the conspiracy is, but some details jarred a bit. A “man of all work” is usually a much rougher character (doing outdoor and mechanical things) than a British butler-type. Is it in character for Edward to be so openly whimsical/ ironic at the risk of exposing Baxter’s other activities? And is the problem with the Cal job that it’s teaching, or what, because I’m not sure being someone’s research assistant is more rewarding than working at one of the nation’s premier Universities. Unless it’s in an underpaid adjunct position, and they don’t usually move people across the country for that!

    My one hesitation over the characters is that, as one sees them in just this one set of scenes, Annie seems a little pitiful – a victim. I can see that part of the point is to get her involved in whatever clandestine activity her aunt proposes, but does she have to be so completely at the end of her rope? Why did she let this creep take advantage of her? And do the rest of her co-workers have to be nasty also? If so, why is she there?

    Anyway, Genie is a fascinating character – decisive and undoubtedly manipulative, but with warmth for some special people. If you can find some way of showing why Annie is special people (speaking strictly for myself, the ability to not accumulate possessions is more of an oddity than a sympathetic trait!), I think that would de-victimize her a bit.

    I definitely want to learn more about Genie and Baxter and their clandestine histories and why they’re still together in “retirement”. Annie obviously has many things to offer as a protagonist in a suspense novel – talents, suitably traumatic back-story – so it will be intriguing to see how she interacts with anonymous government agents!

    UC BERKELEY, Class of 1986


  4. Louisa The Lip

    Don’t you change anything! Just finish it and post it. I am so very into this story. You have done a great job of laying down the story question(s). Genie is going to be great and I love the butler as a “man of all work” because I think maybe it suggests something more than a butler–as does his knowledge of things begun long before. Annie is at a bad place in her life, but she gets into an iffy car and heads off for Atlanta. Whoo!

    Just finish it. Don’t second guess yourself. I am now officially worried about Genie and Annie and Baxter and ready to step in and whap the guy on the filter (unless he turns out to be a good guy after all–even though he’s from the government, he could be a good guy).


  5. BCB

    Oh, GP. I didn’t mean for you to have to print it all out. But I look forward to your assessment.

    These comments (and the ones via email) have been SO helpful. The trouble I’m having is that *I* know the characters and I’ve re-written this scene so many times that I’m not sure that who they are is coming through any more. One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that I’m too much in their heads and I need to “show not tell.” Obviously, I need to show some stuff more clearly.

    ME, first of all, I would never hate you, esp not for doing what I asked you to do. Sheesh. Genie is very confident of her ability to read people. Part of it is knowing Baxter so well, but also that it’s hard to feign surprise, esp if you are not a person who readily shows emotion of any kind. So when he has to hide his surprise, she’s confident it’s genuine. (The throat clearing was him realizing he was going on and on. He’s taciturn.)

    Diane, yes, Edward was being very ironic. Without giving too much away, you might be surprised at what “all work” means in Baxter’s case. “Butler” is the least of it, esp since he isn’t very good at that part of it. Oh, I see Louisa just commented about this — she is very much on the mark.

    But I can see I really missed it with Annie in this scene. I agree, she comes across as a pitiful whiny victim. I don’t like her in that scene and I couldn’t figure out why, because I do like her. She has a big arc to make in the book and she does start off as less than admirable. It’s more that she’s a pleaser and has been all her life. What she “thinks” does not match what she does and says. That’s been very hard for me to show without being in her head. She is going to learn to stand up for herself. Just wait until she clashes with JT.

    Oh, and the UC Berkeley thing was just the first west coast school that popped into my head. No disrespect intended! I do have to research that a bit and find out whether it’s a good fit for Annie’s parents to have contacts there.

    And I guess I’ll have to find a different term for “person of interest.” I almost didn’t use it because I was afraid it might give the wrong impression about the watchers being govt. They’re not. Should have listened to myself.

    As some writer person once said, you don’t get to hand readers an explanation for the stuff you screw up. You have to get it right in the book. So I’m going to take all this extremely helpful feedback and fix stuff. Maybe I’ll post the results once I’m done.

    Thank you all SO MUCH for doing this. I can’t even tell you how much I appereciate it. You all are awesome!


  6. Diane (TT)

    BCB – I figured that you were just picking a school at random and took no offense, but, depending on what Annie doesn’t like, you might, indeed, want to choose a different school: perhaps someplace snooty but academically mediocre (would I offend anyone reading if I suggested USC – known in northern CA as the University of Spoiled Children?), or somewhere small and focused on teaching rather than research, if that’s her issue (I can’t name many of these, but maybe St. Mary’s in Moraga). But if it’s just the proximity to her parents, it could be any one of them.

    Yes, I assumed cops or government – mostly government, partly because of the terminology, but also partly because who else has the resources for such widespread surveilance? I guess we’re going to find out!

    Good luck with revisions – there’s wonderful stuff in here. Annie would have to be a lot more annoying for me to put down the book. If she does, indeed, arc, then I’m sure it will be very gratifying to see her stick up for herself!