So, I’d thought that I could get ‘Songbird’ book 1 ‘Hunters’ as finished as I could… but some feedback I got this morning made me think…

First, a little backstory…

I’ve been working on my manuscript for ‘Hunters‘ for a while now. To demonstrate that, here’s a picture of my file folder. When I started ‘Songbird‘, it was originally entitled ‘Gods & Monsters‘ as it’s WIP title.

That file was dated 29th June 2016. So, that’s 3 1/2 years ago.

It’s been a while.

Originally it was around 260k words. A huge piece of prose, but over the course of those years and through multiple edits (we’re talking about 7 or 8 proper edits, not counting the smaller chapter run-throughs), I chopped out about 12 chapters, and culled around 120k words. I got it to a point I thought it was as good to go as I can get it.

I’m sure a lot of you out there relate to this. You pour your heart and soul into the words you put on (electronic) paper. But you’re NEVER quite sure if it’s as good to others as it is in your own head. 

So, I started to share it. Nervously

Starting with my wife and friends, I let others peek into my new world for the first time.

It went quite well.

We picked up as many of the little issues as we could and spotted the continuity errors and logic issues. I cleaned up the things that people didn’t understand. 

My wife said, “Wow! It reads like a proper book!” – which I took as good news.

Sarah said, “It’s a page turner, I just wanted to know what happened next!” – which I took as good news.

Chell said, “I think it’s brilliant!” – which I took as an sign that I was the next JK Rowling.

Matt (my brother) said, “I haven’t finished it yet…  And I’m not telling you what I think till I’ve finished!” – which I took as…fuck, I don’t know how to take that! (Thanks, Bro!)

The biggest comment regarding the book had been that it started quite slow. This I understood because I had been worried about the leisurely build up over the first 10 chapters or so. I’m building a new world, with multiple characters (in different world locations) and a complex time-line to adhere to.

I’d gone with two particular rules…

Change chapter whenever a new character’s point of view is needed. Hopefully to avoid reader confusion.

Keep the chapters short and bite-sized. To try and keep the momentum going.

All that led to a large chapter count… but a low average word count per chapter. Which I was okay with.

This morning I got some feedback from a source that is NOT biased by being a close friend or family member. I can’t stress how valuable this was to me.

It was pretty good feedback too, so I was pretty happy. 

She did mention that she felt like there was an issue with pacing. She also said it was possibly a subjective choice and seemed to be confined to the first 9 or so chapters (each character’s introductions) and then clears up. Still, it got me thinking today about addressing those concerns.

So… I have questions for the masses.

Are you guys and gals writing a similar multi-character story that needs to do world building in the early chapters?

And, if so, how are you guys handling it?

There is an option on the table to just ignore the feedback, maybe I’m happy with how it is. One of the first lessons that my editor mentor-ship taught me was… ‘It’s MY book’. My story.

But now I’m wondering…

Please feel free to chip in and give me your thoughts on the above questions in the comments below. I’d LOVE the feedback!

Love & Books

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  1. Benjamin

    I was warned early on by my editor about how to handle beta feedback. He said this: “When you open yourself up to criticism, you’d better be able to take it. You don’t have to make the suggested changes if you don’t want to; however, if multiple people are telling you the same thing, that’s when you need to listen.”

    So, it really depends on whether or not you see value in your beta’s opinion about the character development – do you agree or are you reluctant to make changes? For me, my first two betas hit on four development points and, without hesitation, I agreed, so those changes are in the works. You know your story and your characters best and if it works for you, leave it be. If you believe it’s a solid, valid point, find a way to make it work.

    Good luck!

    • admin

      I like the story and the arc, I don’t want to change those. I think my concern now is with the early pacing. Especially if I want to float this to Agents. Will it read the same to them?
      I have some thinking to do. And maybe a little rework on the early chapters. Thanks for your thoughts Benjamin 😀

    • Sean

      A Beta reader, in my opinion, should be someone you have known a long time personally, and whose opinion you trust. The flip side of that is someone who does it all the time for a fee and has good reviews and recommendations from previous clients.

      I either case, he or she should be someone who isn’t shy about giving it to you straight. I can handle criticism, but make it honest.

  2. Jim

    Well, I am writing something with multiple characters, but it’s not something I’m building a world around. Rather, I’m building the characters in relation to the world they live in. It is set in the near past in America and can best be described as character study fiction. The character building is basically the growing of the main character and the subsequent growing of his female better half after they meet and get together at (maybe?) the middle of the book. There are minor players, but I don’t, at this time, focus of the growing of them.

    • Jon Ford

      Thanks for the reply Jim. I like the idea of your characters building in relation to the world around them, in many ways I’m trying to do something similar… though I’ve never really thought about it like that. One of my Main Characters for example is adjusting to something that happened to her that has shifted her perspective of the world as she understands it. Forcing a re-evaluation.
      For my books I aimed at basing the story in the real world as it is now, but with some changes due to an event. So though it’s sci fi, it’s not too far removed from the ‘now’ to be unfamiliar. That (I think) has saved me some world building time. As for the characters, I’m trying to develop them all. This is because, similar to A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m trying to keep the readers guessing as to who the major players will be when the series starts to climax. While I definitely have a couple of Main Characters, I think there will be some surprises along the way as characters you (the reader) don’t expect jump into and out of the important narrative. This early in the books I don’t want to truly tip my hand as yet. (Though there are many hints!)

  3. Jim

    You have an interesting approach I think I like. The art of not implying the importance of certain characters until later in the story intrigues me. I’ve been going about building my story with the characters’ importance already set in stone and molding the story-line around that. They grow as the story grows around the main character. A steady change that the reader can grow accustomed to.

    • Jon Ford

      I wanted to follow the kind of Games of Thrones model when it comes to multiple characters. Book 1 will introduce multiple characters, all treated with a similar importance level at first. But these characters will be filtered over the course of the subsequent books, slowly paring down to the main characters needed for the finale. Hopefully the reader will be surprised by which ones it turns out to be.
      The characters will (I hope) also undergo significant growth over the books. None of them will be in the right place in their lives when you meet them in book 1, but will be where they need to be by book 7.

  4. Robert

    What do you guys think of characters that are only in a few chapters, then just kind of fade away? They serve their purpose for one part of a story, but would have no meaning later on. This is kind of how real life is anyway, right? People tend to come and go.

    • Jon Ford

      My books contain multiple characters exactly like that for exactly the reasons you described. Nobody lives a life in isolation. I like to put my MC’s in a living breathing world and that means interfacing with work colleagues or friends. Sometimes I think that I perhaps have too many supplemental characters LOL
      Some of the characters are only in for a chapter or two as people who cross paths with the MC’s, others have a slightly more major role to play but will then disappear after book 1… they may reappear later, I don’t know yet. But I like the flexibility of having a deep character pool to dip in and out of.

  5. Robert

    Do you find yourself writing a character and putting it in a file, not knowing if you’re going to use him or her in the current story you’re writing? I have 2 right now that I don’t know if I’m going to incorporate into any of the stories I have have started.

    • Jon Ford

      Oh my God! So many!
      The books I’m writing originally had these FLASHBACK chapters in, which were set 10 years prior to the book continuity and had a swathe of different characters. When I’d finished the original draft (the 260k word one) it was clear that it was simply too much. Too many characters to keep track of.
      So I yanked all that stuff out and it’s now stored in a folder on the cloud, ready to be reformatted into an entirely series of Prequel stories that I may just put up for free on here. So if my books do get published (when they get published!), anyone who is interested will be able to look to the website to find a whole bunch of backstory stuff that may be of interest.
      I also thought about getting them edited and maybe published as short stories. They’d probably lend quite well to a self-publishing model maybe.

      But short answer… YES! I don’t throw anything away, it all gets stored and may get used at another time. 😀 SO keep those characters!!!!

  6. Sean

    A Beta reader, in my opinion, should be someone you have known a long time personally, and whose opinion you trust. The flip side of that is someone who does it all the time for a fee and has good reviews and recommendations from previous clients.

    I either case, he or she should be someone who isn’t shy about giving it to you straight. I can handle criticism, but make it honest.

  7. Mason

    A good beta reader doesn’t come cheap. A good anything doesn’t come cheap. If you don’t have the funds, a family member is always a good idea. Especially one who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth.

    More times than not though, I will just let something sit for a few months then go back to it with a fresh set of eyes

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