An interesting comment from my editor.

Apr 5, 2019
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So, I got the manuscript back for my next book. I asked the editor what they thought.

I love the contrast between the two main characters, because it really shows a significant perspective shift depending on one’s faith or lack thereof. Your depiction of the scenery and the dangers creates a dark atmosphere, another intriguing complement to <major character> and his clan. The journey feels exhausting, long, and challenging for the <main character>, making for a great and relatable premise.

None of this was planned. In fact, I was sort of struggling with the message I was trying to weave into this book.
Do readers draw meaning from books, or is it the author that puts meaning in there vis their subconscious biases? Or is it both?

Edit: I should point out that, as far as story goes, this books is fairly dark. Because the majority of characters are mercenaries, they're not the most well-mannered people. Likewise, because monsters are involved, some people die some pretty gruesome deaths.
 
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Wes B

Mostly Harmless
Jul 28, 2019
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Firstly -- congrats on the positive feedback from your editor. Sounds like you're moving in some good directions.

As far as your question goes, I think people go through all sorts of effort to see exactly what they want to see. Author Jerzy Kosiński wrote an excellent dark comedy, called Being There, that examines this tendency to its extremes. It's well planned, thought provoking, and is also a quick read. (And for once, the movie version was excellent, and won a ton of awards...)

Personally, I've been a Toastmaster for a couple of decades, and in that venue alone have delivered over a hundred speeches. Each one is followed later on by a 3-4 minute evaluation by another Toastmaster. Maybe one time in ten, the evaluator will describe at least one thing I'd never said. Now, Wiio's First law Of Communication states that, "Communication usually fails, except by accident," and I think he nailed it on that one...
 
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May 28, 2019
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It always amazes me what people read into my writing. I agree that often the reader will draw on their subconscious and see themes that you as the writer never intended.
 

Accord64

Write well, edit often.
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None of this was planned. In fact, I was sort of struggling with the message I was trying to weave into this book.
Do readers draw meaning from books, or is it the author that puts meaning in there vis their subconscious biases? Or is it both?
Readers tend to compliment my work for "brilliant" things I actually stumbled into by accident. I just take the win thank them for noticing.

 
Oct 2, 2022
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130
So, I got the manuscript back for my next book. I asked the editor what they thought.



None of this was planned. In fact, I was sort of struggling with the message I was trying to weave into this book.
Do readers draw meaning from books, or is it the author that puts meaning in there vis their subconscious biases? Or is it both?

Edit: I should point out that, as far as story goes, this books is fairly dark. Because the majority of characters are mercenaries, they're not the most well-mannered people. Likewise, because monsters are involved, some people die some pretty gruesome deaths.
I'd say both. Definitely both.
 

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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In the Story Grid world, this is referred to as the Controlling Idea and frequently appears after writing the first full draft. Once I have the Controlling Idea, I go back through and see how I can further weave that theme into the story.
Controlling Idea: The story theme where every unit of story should be guided by this message. Every Crisis the protagonist faces should relate to the controlling idea. As we create our story, our controlling idea should guide every sentence we write.

For instance, in THE BLUE GOLEM, after writing a couple of drafts, I realized I was really telling a story about how I wrestled with Imposter Syndrome for my day job, and that helped me amp up the feeling of being an Outsider and a pretender in the beginning and feeling confident of his abilities in the end.
 
Oct 2, 2022
200
130
In the Story Grid world, this is referred to as the Controlling Idea and frequently appears after writing the first full draft. Once I have the Controlling Idea, I go back through and see how I can further weave that theme into the story.


For instance, in THE BLUE GOLEM, after writing a couple of drafts, I realized I was really telling a story about how I wrestled with Imposter Syndrome for my day job, and that helped me amp up the feeling of being an Outsider and a pretender in the beginning and feeling confident of his abilities in the end.
Makes sense.
 
Oct 2, 2022
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I wrestle with imposter syndrome when writing my novels, always feeling like I'm a shoddy author, even when others tell me my books are great. I wonder why so many of us are like that? I hear all the time that people struggle with that.
 
Apr 5, 2019
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Just an update on the story - it's kinda off-topic.

I posted my ideas here about the message of for book a while back. The initial ending I put in the manuscript, prior to sending the books to beta readers, was a placeholder, more or less. I knew the ending I had was weak and even admitted it to the readers. But I needed to move the book along.

Later, when prepping the book for a line edit, I revised the ending. It was much better. However, after the notes of editor came back, it was clear to me that it wasn't strong enough. So, after I got done with applying all of the editor's suggestions, I went about reworking the ending...again.

This time, it works. I don't have to speculate if the ending is consistent with the story, or the message being strong enough - I know it works. Pieces fall into place. The dialogue is much tighter. It has a better feel and hits the notes I want to hit. I should be able to finish it, in total, tonight. I'll probably send the chapter off to a second line edit, and then the whole thing is off for a proofread. And then...another read-through (sigh).

In the end, if you're going to publish a story, make sure it is everything you want it to be. Because in cheating yourself, you're also cheating the reader.
 
Oct 2, 2022
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I'm glad your book is coming along well. Those weak points in our stories really can be hard to fix sometimes. It's worth it in the end, though. There's nothing more satisfying than finishing a novel and knowing that it is quality work.
The worst part of editing a novel is the re-read, in my opinion. I hate reading through a story I spent months, a year even, writing and then reading it four or five times to make sure everything is the way it should be. Once again, it's worth it.

If you don't mind, could you post the link to your novel when it is released? I'd love to check it out.
 
Apr 5, 2019
1,753
1,220
I wrestle with imposter syndrome when writing my novels, always feeling like I'm a shoddy author, even when others tell me my books are great. I wonder why so many of us are like that? I hear all the time that people struggle with that.

I don't have imposter syndrome per se'. Having imposter syndrome means you have a concern as to what other people think. I really don't care what people think of me.

My issue is, and has been for some time, that I don't understand what readers get out of a book. I get being engrossed in a story. But with THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB, I had people leaving reviews telling me that while they thought my story was great, they had to put it down because it was too much for them. I had another tell me that they felt like they were an integral part of the story - like they were there. They weren't a passive observer.

These are all great compliments and a huge ego boost. But I certainly don't see any of that in my writing. With this understanding, I don't have any sense of how to replicate this in other books aside from doing what I do. It's like being a violin virtuoso who is stone deaf. I definitely want to hit these same notes again with my next book. But that's hard to do when you can't even hear them yourself. So, I just fiddle liked I did last time, and hope I pull it off.
 

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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I wrestle with imposter syndrome when writing my novels, always feeling like I'm a shoddy author, even when others tell me my books are great. I wonder why so many of us are like that? I hear all the time that people struggle with that.
I wrestled with this in my day job because I came to my career in an atypical way. I'm a SR. Technical Writer for IBM but I don't have a college degree. What I did have was a knack. I was good at the work I was hired to do because, honestly, a lifetime of reading had prepared me to know when a thought was clear and coherent and flowed from one principle to another. I didn't need a degree to train me in that. But since everyone I worked with went through the full college experience, I felt like an Outsider and I thought I was missing something crucial in order to do what I do. In the 22 years since then, I've demonstrated to myself and my peers that I really am that good and I'm not missing anything I need in order to take technical information from a Subject Matter Expert, clean it up, and present it in clear, easy to follow instructions for an end-user audience.

Creative writing is a completely different discipline. Where technical writing values clear, coherent instructions, fiction values art and requires craft. My early feedback from friends and family was really good, but other than making me feel good enough to continue, they did me no favors. I've belonged to a number of writing groups, and none of them were particularly helpful. Yes, it felt good to hang around with other writers, but at the end of the day, it was one amateur telling other amateurs what was wrong with their work.

Three things pushed my writing to the next level:
  1. Competing in, and completing, NaNoWriMo (I've won twice, 2004, and 2014). This showed me I could write a 50k word novel draft in 30 days. The first time I won, the heavens opened, the angels sang, and I thought "I can do this."
  2. Reading and then joining a fiction writing craft group (in my case, The Story Grid, although there are many good writing communities out there)
  3. Joining a weekly SHEG (Super Hardcore Editing Group). Each week I share a new chapter with two others and we critique the work based on Story Grid editing principles (is the work in the right genre, does it conform to the 5 Commandments of Story, does the story turn on the right global value, that kind of technical stuff). We're not focused on line editing, we're focused on the larger, fundamental elements. I've mentioned before about trying to write an Epic Action ending for a Thriller, and trying to write a Worldview first chapter when I really just needed to kill a man. When I started with The Story Grid, I was a proud Pantser, a discovery writer who was repelled by any hint of outline or story structure. After going through the book and seeing all the rakes I was leaving for myself to step on, I changed my tune.
There are two big aspects for the Imposter Syndrome: when you have the skill but don't feel confident in yourself, and when you actually don't have the skills. As a technical writer, I had the ability and I've proven that for 22 years. However, the nagging feeling I was an imposter as a fiction writer was accurate. I had a lifetime of experience as a reader but I needed to hone that raw talent into something more focused. I now consider myself a Plantser, a person who understands and appreciates the virtue and value of story structure. I now outline my scenes and then use my discovery writing strengths to flesh out the rest.

I no longer feel like an imposter but I can see how writing about my time feeling like an imposter can resonate. Now I see my relative skills, and acknowledge the areas where I know I need work. I'm taking measures to augment the former and fill in the gaps in the latter.
 
Oct 2, 2022
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Hopefully as I write more, I'll grow more confident. I really love writing, in fact, that's why I'm in college, so maybe I just need more time writing, publishing, and receiving feedback.

I keep hearing about NaNoWriMo; what is it exactly?
 

Johne

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I keep hearing about NaNoWriMo; what is it exactly?
NaNoWriMo is an acronym for the National Novel Writing Month. You can make it as hard or as casual as you like, but the core of it is very simple–write every day during November to achieve a first rough draft of at least 50k words. (I wrote six days per week and took off Saturdays the first time I competed.) There's an entire community of writers to help you out, and it can be very helpful to know that others are going through what you're going through.

Competing in, and completing NaNo changed my writing life. That's when my identity changed in my mind from 'dabbler with interest' to 'writer.' Everything I've done since then has been through the lens of a writer. (The next phase for me is 'author,' someone who has published a novel. I've published a magazine and a baker's dozen short stories, and I will be an author next year, Lord willing, come Hell or high water.)
 
Oct 2, 2022
200
130
NaNoWriMo is an acronym for the National Novel Writing Month. You can make it as hard or as casual as you like, but the core of it is very simple–write every day during November to achieve a first rough draft of at least 50k words. (I wrote six days per week and took off Saturdays the first time I competed.) There's an entire community of writers to help you out, and it can be very helpful to know that others are going through what you're going through.

Competing in, and completing NaNo changed my writing life. That's when my identity changed in my mind from 'dabbler with interest' to 'writer.' Everything I've done since then has been through the lens of a writer. (The next phase for me is 'author,' someone who has published a novel. I've published a magazine and a baker's dozen short stories, and I will be an author next year, Lord willing, come Hell or high water.)
I would love to compete in that. Maybe I'll try it out sometime. I look forward to reading your novels in the future. Good luck with your writing!
 

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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I would love to compete in that.
NaNoWriMo is a rush. I'd heard about it halfway through November, 2003 and spent an entire year developing a Fantasy world that I intended to write in. I wrote a half dozen short stories to flesh out characters and setting and lore, and wrote a quarter million words preparing for November. However, with less than two weeks to go, I realized all my enthusiasm was gone and I no longer cared about all that prep work I did.

So I scrapped all of it, imagined a Peter Pan-like ship that sailed through the skies, peopled it with a Firefly-sque crew, and rolled into November with the most minimal idea ever. But what I had in spades was excitement, and you'll need enthusiasm to get through the month. The virtue of having a nine person crew was I'd have one of them say something and then let the others bounce off that initial statement. You'd be surprised at how much easy word count you can get when you have nine different personalities just talking with each other.

The biggest thing about NaNo is consistent, daily word count. It doesn't matter if your story is plotted, it doesn't matter if things flow logically from one thing to another, the only thing that matters is word count. Find something that interests you, gather a bunch of disparate people together together, turn off your inner editor, and let 'em loose and watch your word count mount. It might consume your month, but it might change your life. NaNo changed my writing life and I am eternally grateful for carving out 30 days to give this challenge a shot.
 
Oct 2, 2022
200
130
NaNoWriMo is a rush. I'd heard about it halfway through November, 2003 and spent an entire year developing a Fantasy world that I intended to write in. I wrote a half dozen short stories to flesh out characters and setting and lore, and wrote a quarter million words preparing for November. However, with less than two weeks to go, I realized all my enthusiasm was gone and I no longer cared about all that prep work I did.

So I scrapped all of it, imagined a Peter Pan-like ship that sailed through the skies, peopled it with a Firefly-sque crew, and rolled into November with the most minimal idea ever. But what I had in spades was excitement, and you'll need enthusiasm to get through the month. The virtue of having a nine person crew was I'd have one of them say something and then let the others bounce off that initial statement. You'd be surprised at how much easy word count you can get when you have nine different personalities just talking with each other.

The biggest thing about NaNo is consistent, daily word count. It doesn't matter if your story is plotted, it doesn't matter if things flow logically from one thing to another, the only thing that matters is word count. Find something that interests you, gather a bunch of disparate people together together, turn off your inner editor, and let 'em loose and watch your word count mount. It might consume your month, but it might change your life. NaNo changed my writing life and I am eternally grateful for carving out 30 days to give this challenge a shot.
Can you join at any time or are there dates you have to join on?
 

Johne

Senior Member
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Sep 27, 2005
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Can you join at any time or are there dates you have to join on?
NaNoWriMo proper is November 1st to the November 30th. With that said, the only real metric here is '50k words yes / no.' Nobody will vett your words. It's completely up to you how much or how little you want to work the system, and nobody will care if you start and bail part way through.

With all that said, there is INCREDIBLE energy doing this in November with all the other writers. There are weekly or daily emails, there are groups you can join (either online or in person), and there are all kinds of services and tools and helps. If you have a few hours a day you can devote to it, I highly recommend it, but it's a big thing. If you sign up and work the system, it will CONSUME your month. With that said, I can point to attempting and completing NaNo as the single biggest turning point in my writing career. It's low risk and huge reward, and all it takes is all your free time for 30 days. (I spent most of October letting my friends and family what it would be like, and I essentially ghosted everybody for a month. I mean, I was still making meals for my family, but other than that, other than budgeting one free day per week, the rest of the time I was unavailable. I remember going to Thanksgiving with the family and being very monosyllabic.) ;)

But, as I said, it changed my life, so there's that to look forward to.
 
Oct 2, 2022
200
130
NaNoWriMo proper is November 1st to the November 30th. With that said, the only real metric here is '50k words yes / no.' Nobody will vett your words. It's completely up to you how much or how little you want to work the system, and nobody will care if you start and bail part way through.

With all that said, there is INCREDIBLE energy doing this in November with all the other writers. There are weekly or daily emails, there are groups you can join (either online or in person), and there are all kinds of services and tools and helps. If you have a few hours a day you can devote to it, I highly recommend it, but it's a big thing. If you sign up and work the system, it will CONSUME your month. With that said, I can point to attempting and completing NaNo as the single biggest turning point in my writing career. It's low risk and huge reward, and all it takes is all your free time for 30 days. (I spent most of October letting my friends and family what it would be like, and I essentially ghosted everybody for a month. I mean, I was still making meals for my family, but other than that, other than budgeting one free day per week, the rest of the time I was unavailable. I remember going to Thanksgiving with the family and being very monosyllabic.) ;)

But, as I said, it changed my life, so there's that to look forward to.
Wow, this sounds amazing! I would love to participate this November. How much does it cost, or is it free?

Also, is there any other advice you can give me on it? Thanks. I'm excited about this, if you can't tell.😁
 

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