Critiques. The word can make one cringe or cry or… create something better. 2012 had arrived and I was still working on AWESOME SAUCE. The new title was waiting for my next set of reviewers. It had been several other titles but now AWESOME SAUCE felt perfect.
As previously described five people had read the early version of Hender’s story. No one had read AWESOME SAUCEversion #98, 47,000 total words. Sandy, a good friend and one of my original readers set me up with two teachers and four students from Vivian Elementary in Lakewood, Colorado and another boy from Fairbanks, Alaska to become my next set of evaluators. My neighbor who had read the original version offered to read this new one too, giving me much appreciated feedback on the changes made. At the time I thought this would be my final public critique but there would soon be more rounds in March and May.
I asked the students and adults to write comments about the manuscript and on Feb. 14, 2012, there was a feedback session with both groups. I was hoping that Valentine’s Day would bring a lot of love to my story but I was nervous all the same. None of them realized I had spent hundreds of hours (Who’s counting?) on this project and the characters had become real to me. Was I setting myself up for an ambush? Thankfully no and the feedback shared helped me focus my attention on making more changes.
“Hender is such a loveable character.”
“I love that boy!”
“Liked the humor.”
“It was believable and touching.”
“I’d want Jonson as a friend too, he cracked me up.”
“I want to read more about Hender’s life.”
“The setting was perfect.”
Negative or shall I say Constructive Criticism
“I didn’t like the ending, too many loose ends.”
“The ending left me with a lot of questions, frustrating.”
“Make Everly (the antagonist) meaner.”
“If it’s 2031 add in more stuff how life is different 19 years from now.”
I let the story sit for a few days, still thinking about the ending and other changes I could make. It was clear I had to fix the loose ends and continue to strengthen the story. I hate stories that never answer all the questions and here I had created one myself. Back to the computer I went, going through my editing list again while writing three more chapters and combining two others. It was down to 46,500 words but the ending I had always intended but never wrote was closer to being in place.
Lesson Learned: Getting feedback no matter how much it hurts is the best thing one can do to make their manuscript. About this time I stumbled across a web site that would help me like no other and it enabled me to make the Awesome Sauce manuscript the best it had ever been.
“Your words can always improve; they just need to be read with a different pair of eyes.”