If you haven’t read The Adventures of Baby Edwin #1: The Great Escape, this post will probably make more sense if you do that first.
So I got this idea for a series of stories about a toddler who escapes his crib at naptime and has ridiculous adventures. Funny, I thought. A little weird. Perfect.
I sat down and wrote the first one in no time, but when I read it over, it just didn’t feel right. Kind of . . . blah.
I explained the concept to my wife and she loved the idea. Then she read it, and agreed that it wasn’t great.
We talked about it a little more, and she pointed out a couple of issues. First of all, in the original version, Baby Edwin didn’t talk. I’d thought it would be funny for him to just kind of fall onto Lido’s back and ride along while the dog does everything. Then, at the end, Edwin would get all the credit for being the hero. While that idea still amuses me, my wife pointed out that there would be way more room for humour if Edwin actually spoke. Since the dog didn’t talk either, two mute main characters just didn’t make for a lot of excitement. Good point.
Her second comment was about the way I had ended the story. Edwin’s mother went to his room, found him missing, and looked frantically for him. Outside, she called his name, and Lido came galloping along with him on his back. Then the story ended with everyone enjoying some ice cream.
“Are you kidding?” asked my wife. “You want this kid to have any more adventures? Cuz there’s no way that Momma is ever gonna let that happen again.” Unless Edwin got back into bed the same way he got out—without his mother knowing about it—his adventures were over. Possibly for the rest of his life. It made sense, of course, but just didn’t occur to me. I needed a mother’s insight for that one.
And so I went back to the story and made some changes. This time, when I read it after, it worked the way I had hoped it would. And you know what? That’s how it goes with writing. Writers need feedback.
So here’s the writing tip: get other people to read your writing, and tell you what they think. If you’re a student, you’re probably used to handing your work in to your teacher. You’re lucky to have that. Pay attention to your teachers’ comments (not just the grade) and learn whatever you can from them. And find some other people you can share your work with. It’s good to have friends or family members who will tell you how awesome your writing is, because we all need encouragement. But if you really want to be a good writer, you also need to find some people who will give you ideas for improvement.
It can be scary, because no one likes to hear bad things about what they’ve written. But don’t take it personally.
Did you know that even professional authors count on other people’s perspectives to get it right? Most of us join a writers’ group, or find a few other writers (critique partners) to swap writing with. We also look for beta readers (friends and family members who love to read and/or write, and are willing to read our work and give us their feedback). And then, of course, there are editors. If your work is published by a magazine or a publishing company, their editors will make suggestions. And people like me who self-publish will actually hire editors. I spent seven months making changes to Space Cadets after getting feedback from an editor, beta readers and my writing group. It was tough at times, but I’m so glad I did it, and so thankful for all the people I have in my life who will tell me what they think about my writing—the good and the bad. Space Cadets, “Baby Edwin”, and everything else I write would only be about half as good without them!
What about you? Who do you get to read over your writing? Do you have any questions for me about feedback? I love to hear from my readers, so share your thoughts (under “Get in Touch”, just to the right of this post).