The results from Week 2 are up: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/958187.html
as is the new topic: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/958277.html
Given how busy December tends to be, I've even given you the best gift of all, more time. Use it wisely.
But that's not all. This week I'm giving you something extra in your stocking - A Mentor!
The Mentor program, for those who haven't been around in a season that has had them is where I
convince someone to come into the Work Room to give advice and be around to answer any questions people might have, and generally bounce ideas off.
This week, it's the Co-Winner of Exhibit B mini-season - and the person who was the fastest in Idol history to join the 100 Weeks Club
! Give a warm welcome to your Mentor for the week - the one and only lrig_rorrim
Ok. I’ve got some important advice for you intrepid Idolers. You ready? Here we go.1.
Reread your entry. Then reread it again. Read it aloud. Then have a friend read it. And then another friend. Rope as many friends into this as you can.
That’s it. That’s the big piece of advice.
Perspective is incredibly valuable. I’m not saying you should be an authorial shape-changer, shifting your style and content and presentation based upon the whims of a mercurial audience. I’m saying that writing is a kind of magic trick - we have images in our mind and we want to smush those images onto a screen in words for others to read. And what images will they
have in their
minds when they’ve seen the words? Is it what you were aiming for? Could it be closer? The more feedback you get from other people, the more you can perfect that magic trick.
Also, your friends will catch your typos and stray commas and awkward sentences. You’re going to miss some. Trust me on this one.
I said that was it, but really this singular piece of advice comes with two important corollaries. 1a.
Learn how solicit good and useful feedback. 1b.
Learn how to apply the feedback that you get.
So! Finding people to read your stuff is one thing - that’s what this space can be used for, after all! But those corollaries? Yikes!
you solicit good and useful feedback? So often what we get is “I liked it!” or “That was good” or “Eh, it wasn’t my thing.” Now, there’s useful information in those statements, but not a lot.
The first trick is to make sure to ask your readers good questions. It’s nice to know if they like something, but it’s way more useful to know that a sentence wasn’t at all grammatically correct, or that one of your characters is super unlikeable (especially if that wasn’t your intention!).
So, set the tone when you ask folks to read a thing. Ask for help spotting typos and awkward sentences, but also ask questions like, “What do you think happened
, in your own words.” If you’re going for a specific tone, whether that’s melancholy or funny or introspective, ask how the piece made your reader feel
. Did they get invested in the characters? Was there any point in the entry where their attention started to wander a little bit? I think you start to get the picture!
And what about 1b
, learning how to apply the feedback you get? You don’t want to twist yourself into knots trying to make things perfect for everyone, and you’re operating on a pretty tight schedule here. Here’s the secret to revision and applying feedback: it’s not all-or-nothing. You don’t have to take every piece of advice someone gives you about improving an entry and try to apply it. You get to pick and choose. Someone may have fantastic sentence-level feedback for you but be awful about seeing the bigger picture. Maybe non-fiction memoir really isn’t their thing, and so their input on style just isn’t going to work for you this time. That’s ok! The trick is to get enough perspectives on a thing that you understand what’s generally
working and what isn’t.
And how do you fix those things that aren’t working? Well, sometimes your readers will have ideas on that score - more often they won’t, or won’t have time to articulate them clearly.
Take what input you’ve got, and remember that every single word of your entry has an impact - sometimes that impact is negative, so you may need to cut a few of those words out. Remember that the things which are so clear in your head aren’t necessarily always making it to the page. If readers are unclear about something important, it might be because you haven’t actually put the words on the page yet. Add words. Reread. Take some words away. Read it aloud. And if you’ve got the time, get even more eyes on it. Creation is an iterative process.
And when that deadline rolls around and it’s time to put your link in the topic post and share it with an even wider audience, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. And then go read! All these writers, working with the same general constraints, coming up with so many different angles on the same prompt... it’s amazing. You’re all amazing.
Go forth and be amazing. I’ll be here, to answer questions, read and offer feedback on works in progress, and do what I can to help.