Writers are a weird lot. We work on something in solitude (primarily) that we hope will speak to others. That’s just a bizarre concept when you stop and think about it. I muck around in my own psyche, digging up things that I think are useful, tweaking them and twisting them until they are not familiar but are still true, and then I try to get someone to say “It’s good.”
Feedback from friends who are not writers tends to be something like “It’s good and I liked it.” While I appreciate that they read what I wrote, I’m usually hoping for more substantive comments. My family will tell me “It’s good. The part where you did such-and-such is pretty funny.” This is a little better, but still not quite what I’m wanting to hear. My writer friends will talk about the characterization, the dialog, the plot, the shape of the story, etc. Again, I am grateful for their comments, but what I really want is to know that I connected.
On Tuesday, this is what I got from my editor, Peggy Tierney:
What a range you have as a writer!!! The last manuscript you gave me was a lovely, light, very funny, first-person story told in the very authentic voice of a young teen girl. And now, I’ve gone from laughing to crying. It’s such a moving story, and I absolutely felt like it was real — like it had played out somewhere and you just captured it. (big sigh). Do you know what my only worry is? That it is almost TOO devastating for a teen boy to read. My gosh. I just felt his pain through and through. I did feel like it ended abruptly and wanted a little more denouement, but really that is a small thing. I do want to give it to a couple of teen boys to read (and maybe a teen girl) and get their feedback — I wonder if it will hit them as hard. I think tragedy has become more difficult for me as I grow older – I am more empathetic. Teens are fascinated by the dark side of life. But I was really pleased that it ended well — but not perfect, and that is good, for life rarely turns out quite so clean and perfect. But he stays with Maggie. Gosh, Kim, it’s amazing how you didn’t just create this character, but just so effectively made him so real, again so authentic — I do believe he exists somewhere! I can’t explain that any further.
Anyway, I wanted to write you as soon as I finished it, so you are getting my unadulterated thoughts and response. Go toast yourself with a big glass of wine!!
That is connection. That is what I wanted. I can fix the ending (in fact, I’ve already begun), but this is why I write. When a person tells me that he or she believes this character exists as a real person, that he or she thinks I may have witnessed the story rather than having made it up – that is feedback that makes my heart sing and reinforces for me that I’m doing what I should be doing.
There are some adjustments to make in the manuscript, and I will be eager to hear the feedback from the teenagers that she has chosen to share the story with. But for today I am taking her advice (minus the wine, I have composition essays to grade!), and celebrating a good story and another opportunity to connect.
I truly love being a writer!