Both my critique reader/writers have sent back their feedback, but like all feedback it requires evaluation before acting on it. We need to evaluate it objectively, in terms of what is best for our book, and that means loosening our attachment to our work as it stands. This process of evaluation has shown me that a writer’s perception of what they’ve written may not be the same as what they actually have written, and the only way you’ll learn that is through someone else’s eyes.
Here’s a couple of examples. The issues are things that any YA author with a romantic element in their work could check in their ms.
Among other things, Laurie said…
‘The one thing I’m having difficulty with is the Nick-Ariel relationship … I think its overwritten … the prose sometimes borders on Mills and Boon … And the many repetitions of their eyes meeting for a moment and then the energy that passes between them that wore me down. Maybe it just ignites too soon and goes on too long. Partly It’s also the prose that I find a bit much (I can understand a teenage girl would be less squeemish than I on that front). But I really think you could broaden the audience if you could get the tone right – as it is I think this would spoil it for the boys who would otherwise enjoy the other scenes.’
I like a bit of passion in a book, nevertheless since Laurie raised this, clearly the area needs some work. I don’t want the romantic element to grate on readers. Like many aspects of writing a book, balance is the key.
That a relationship happens too quickly is a criticism I see quite often in reviews, especially in the YA genre. I hadn’t applied that to my own work because my perception of what I’d written is clearly different to what I have actually written. It was supposed to develop slowly.
Helpfully, Laurie says…
‘I keep getting visions of these two impossibly beautiful people …. Could they be less beautiful and still work? Could one of them be less than beautiful? Could the inner beauty then show more powerfully in the face of a less perfect exterior? This would allow the relationship to emerge more gradually – more reluctantly … with experience.’
I think he has the answer. We assume the initial meeting is romantic because they see each other as attractive straight away. I can make their initial reactions focus on the painful aspects of the energetic effect they have on each other, so it’s a real turn-off. It can colour their perception of each other so they see only their physical flaws, not their beauty. The development of a relationship is interesting. I shouldn’t throw away that opportunity for more dramatic tension.
He also said ….
Some stylistic repetition grates (on me at least) … Fluttering/flashing eyes and the state of Ariel’s stomach being a couple of them. I would look at your use of description of facial and body movements to describe emotions. There is quite a bit of repetition there and sometimes, a simple statement of emotion may work better. I think its a balance thing.
This raises the issue how to write the romantic element and how much to have in the book. I emailed my other reviewer Eveline and asked – what do you think about how I’ve written the romantic element? Are the physical effects overdone?
I think the romance is an essential part of the mix for teens: romance, good and evil, exotic danger, mystery, suspense. You could say of any of these elements that they are ‘overdone.’ But that is the kind of story it is. It has its own integrity. I would not change the romance aspect. It goes with the scenery, so to speak. I believe you can trust your own motivation and intuition, particularly considering what I have glimpsed of you as a person.
The more people you consult the more opinions you will get. Feedback from teens is obviously valuable, but you cannot please every reader. So I would say: Stick to your ‘guns.’
Nevertheless, I will check on the frequency of heart flutters etc. No doubt they aren’t all necessary, and the sections that Laurie highlighted can certainly be written less lushly without losing anything important. They may even be more powerful. It is often said that less is more.
Have you ever felt the same as Laurie about any book you’ve read? How physical do you like the descriptions of the romantic elements? What mix of elements like romance, action, mystery, comedy etc do you like in a book?