Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Musings: Feedback/reviews and their influence

Hello, May!

I'm almost a little afraid to ask if Spring has finally sprung in your area of the world, only because I know a few friends have seen snow...again. It's been a slow end to winter weather this year. Or maybe it just feels like it. And that can really play on our moods, can't it.

Now this really does lead into TERRI BERTHA, Mainstream NEW author’s question this week, something I'm curious about being a reviewer: does feedback/reviews influence your current/next writing…how?


Whether or not feedback influences my writing depends on the source, though not entirely. I do greatly value the input of my husband, and fellow Muse author, Bryan Fields, but if he has input that runs contrary to how I want the story to go, I feel free to ignore it. With reviews – reviews are kind of funny beasts. I’ve had some reviews that praise certain features of a story while others hate the story for exactly the same reason. With Forging Day, I know a lot of people really liked the relationship with Olivia and Kat, but that didn’t influence my decisions about her relationships in Family Values. I care more about what feels right for the character – even if I know some people won’t like it or they feel it isn’t politically correct. Olivia is a young woman with her own train car full of personal baggage and over time, through the stories, she is maturing and learning more about herself. It may feel frustrating to some readers that she doesn’t instantly have her ‘happily ever after’ but life doesn’t work that way. When you have personal issues, first you have to recognize that the issues even exist, and then you have to want to face them. Olivia doesn’t always make the right choices, but she’s a work in progress.

Feedback is definitely game winner. Reviews are to. As a writer, I tend to get lost in what I’ve created. That’s a good thing, but also a little bad. I am writing what I want to read…but is it what others will read too? Feedback and reviews tell me I’m moving in the right direction. Or that I’ve fallen short along the way. I’ve had a few people tell me my characters are too harsh toward humans (my characters aren’t human though) and that I needed to soften their views in regards to humans (that’s the nice way to put what was said, lol). However, at the same time other betas were reminding me that my main characters ARE NOT human and NOT to change them. They said it gave them a view of themselves (humans) if they were seen by a non-human species. I believe they said “How would vampires, were-wolves, and aliens see humans? They would not view them the same way we see ourselves, which is kind of scary.”

So yes, feedback influences my writing from beginning to end. It reminds me that I created a world that exists alongside our own and my characters are NOT human and shouldn’t be assumed to have human attributes. But, there are times I can soften their harshness without changing them completely. A balance of sorts you could say, in my opinion.

Feedback influences me heavily, more so than reviews. For feedback, I'm not yet done with the project, so there's time to decide if I agree or not and what I want to do about it.

My most radical rewrite was what became Broken Bonds, the second book in my Novels of Aleyne series. Some feedback convinced me I had concentrated on the wrong thread in the story, and I ended up changing POV characters, concentrating on the adults instead of the teens. As a result, the former main character, Keth, was dropped as a POV character. Many scenes I liked were thus consigned to the computer ash-heap, so to speak. Pack rat that I am, however, the old versions (yes, more than one) are saved online in Google Drive. Here is an excerpt, one of many that I like. And, no, Keth is not taking any of Professor Davis's classes.

Martin insisted on escorting us to Professor Davis's office. We reached the outside of the building when the door swung open and Professor Davis marched out. Two Federation Guards flanked him, holding his arms. I opened my mouth to say something, but Professor Davis spoke first.

“Raketh,” he said, staring right at me. “You may leave your paper with the department secretary. I'm going to have to take points off your grade for turning it in late.”

“I'm sorry, Professor Davis,” I said, picking up my cue. “Will you be around for office hours today? I wanted to discuss my thesis project with you.”

“I'm going to be away for a while.” The guard on Professor Davis's left jerked on his arm. “I've got to go.”

Martin frowned. "That's odd. He has a class scheduled in an hour."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes." Martin turned and started down the corridor. "Come on, I'm going to check with the department secretary."

Individual reviews, no.  If I see the same issue raised in multiple reviews, though, I'll take it seriously.  Several people commented on how fast my stories move, and suggested I slow them down a bit.  That's something I'm working on.

It also matters who the comment comes from.  When Charles de Lint reviewed 'Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend', he noted that the stakes of the stories escalated to the point of saving the world, and he asked, "What do you save next?"  Seeing as he's one of the grand masters of my genre and one of my three favorite authors of all time, I listened.  This time, the stakes are child custody, not saving the world.

And what do you know?  There's still plenty of room for thrilling heroics.

Feedback does have an influence on me.  I always respond to readers who take the time to write to me and answer whatever questions they have to the best of my ability.  They also affect my work directly.  This was especially true in the twelve-book Star Commandos series in a concrete fashion.  Corrections and sound suggestions could be incorporated in later works and also held for reprints or reissues of existing novels.  I even gratified some "wishes" when doing so strengthened the story or characters, small touches that enhanced the whole.

I cherish reviews (good ones), but they have had no direct impact on my books apart from helping to generate more sales.  I fully appreciate that the individuals went to the trouble and effort of writing their reactions.

Yes, feedback and reviews influences my current and next writing projects. It helps me see my work through readers’ eyes. One review I got on Family Secret mentioned that they would have liked me to write the story from another character’s point of view. So that influences me to look at my characters more closely in my next writing project to see if another character could tell the story better.

I think it's always wise to listen to your readers and to learn from their comments. Sometimes people have opposing views, so it's not always possible to please everyone. I have been told that 'Daffodil and the Thin Place' is an intriguing title for a book but it has also been suggested that it doesn't give any idea of what the story is about. I suppose if you've never heard of a 'thin place', the title might be meaningless. When I decide on a title for the sequel to 'Daffodil and the Thin Place', I will try to ensure it is interesting as well as descriptive.  I'm always grateful to readers, if they let me know their thoughts, and whatever the feedback, I consider it carefully, so that hopefully, I can improve my writing.

IVAN BLAKE, New Mainstream author

Do I listen to my critics? You're darned tootin'. When, after a long career in academia and government, I returned in my retirement to creative writing, my first inclination was to tackle literary and romantic fiction -- but my sons were scathing in their criticism of my early efforts. "Dad, when we were kids and we camped at the lake every summer, you scared us half to death with your tales of ghosts and monsters. THAT'S what you should be writing!" How right they were.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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