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Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Feedback on Installment #1 (MS3 I1)

Demographic: 26 yr old female college student, NY.

To start off, I love the prologue. I don't normally read them, but the start of yours caught my attention. It reminds me of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is a good thing. :)

It took some time for me to get used to your writing style. This isn't good nor bad, but the style in which you wrote feels more like a play to me. I'm used to third person past tense being used. This is relevant, in that I felt that the start of the story was kind of slow, and I'm sure getting used to a style that I am unaccustomed to is part of it. The other part, is that it feels very science heavy in the explanation given the children of how the universe was created and related details. This isn't necessarily bad, but as an individual who has a fascination for astronomy and theories for the creation of the universe, even I had a bit of a hard time getting through it. Once I got through that explanation, however, it picks up a lot and it was able to suck me in. I can see this start deterring some readers.

[She is correct, some readers blow right through the initial science stuff with no problem and some just hit a brick wall. There is a small tinge of Plato's Republic, so it is very conversational. ]

In terms of the characters, it struck me as strange how Elof2 would, on occasion, retort with a sneer or in an otherwise jerk fashion, particularly since he cares for the boys as sons.
[Elof2 plays the role of a teacher at this point.]
For example, on page 21, line 353, Elof2 replies with "Whatever" to a comment from Ty. While it could simply be my personal interpretation, that seems much too... teenage-apathy for the character you are representing otherwise with Elof2. This type of reaction occurs several times in response to Ty or Tycho. I don't know if it is intentional that he responds on occasion with such hostility, given his history, but it strikes me as odd every time I encountered it in reading.

[Elof2 is a very odd and conflicted character. You might expect that for someone raised by an abusive parent. At this point he has a lot of suppressed fear that Ty and Tyco will be euthanized and he tries to hide it with his dismissive nature. ]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blind Feedback on Installment #1 from 6th grader

This is my first bit of blind feedback. I call it blind feedback because I do not have any direct contact with the middle school student providing it nor do I know who they are. The review copies are made available by a middle school librarian. He finds readers and forwards feedback he receives.

Demographic: 6th grade boy in CA middle school containing smart and gifted children.

Excellent novel! Has great potential to become a bestseller. I loved the way it uses flashbacks and the idea of a "living book"(By the way I would never think of destroying it because it is so good).
[The book threatens to burn your brain out if you try and damage it.]
Two problems but otherwise good. One, it might hard to follow to some people because of the disrupted plot, I understood it just fine but it can be confusing at times. Two, elaborate more some things are left unexplained and therefore understandable until later in the book. I look forward to the next book!

He is correct in that the book can be confusing at times due to the jumping around in time. At one moment you may be talking to the present day character, at the next moment you might be reliving the past in something similar to a virtual reality setup, seeing the character in the past. If the character has time travel capability, the future version of the character may appear to make sure you interpret events correctly, so his future will occur. The effect is similar to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, which many people found confusing when it was first published.

Elaborating on some of the unexplained details can be difficult because some of the unexplained details can form the punch line in the next book when they are explained. Still, I can take a look around and see if there are any that I can go a bit further on without revealing the surprise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Early Feedback on Installment #1

The first version of "The Children of Sophista : The Saeshell Book of Time" that I tried to query was a monster: 248,000 words. Even targeting this novel toward gifted kids, I realized no teen wants to read a novel that big. So based on the feedback from the kind chief editor at @BrighterBooks and from my gifted 7th grade reader in TX, I split the novel into four installments and fleshed out Installment #1: The Death of Innocents, making it much more experiential and providing much more in-depth development of some of the characters. The installment is now 69,000 words long, which is pretty much dead-center on the word count target for YA fiction.

The current feedback campaign includes an older college student, a gifted seventh grade reader in TX, and a blind feedback (I don't communicate directly with the students) being conducted by a middle school librarian in CA. I actually continue to try to expand the early reader network, but it is a very difficult task.

One of the more interesting phenomena I have noticed is that the most unexpected feedback I get are from people who I wasn't soliciting feedback. These are people who just saw a feedback copy lying around (they know the person I was asking for feedback) and just pick it up and read it. The feedback, I am sharing below, is from such an unsolicited person. It was so positive that I couldn't believe it initially. So below the feedback, you will see some followup questions I asked to be sure the reader had really thought about the novel and their feedback they were giving.

Demographic: Older adult female in NY. Not in publishing or any book related activities. Not related to me. Unsolicited.

Steph let me read your book and she said that I should let you know what I thought about it. I think it is a brilliant piece of literature and I enjoyed reading it very much. I hope to read more in the future and will be keeping my eye out for your books. Thank you for sharing your talent and imagination with the rest of us mortals.

The reference she makes to mortals is from many of the characters in the book being immortal.

The followup questions:

1. So who was your favorite character?

My favorite character was Elos2 (not sure if I spelled correctly). [actually it's Elof2] He touched me as a loner and I was very interested in learning how he got to where he was.

This is very unexpected. I had been told that women would identify strongest with women characters. Perhaps this a different between teen verses adult readers. Perhaps adult women identify more with the male characters, like reading a romance novel.

2. Some people have told me that the first part of the book is a little slow.
What did you think?
As for being a slow start, I didn't feel that. It grabbed me right from the beginning. I like a good book that engages my imagination and is different than anything else I've read.

3. If you had picked up the book at the bookstore and looked through it like you normally would, would it have caught your eye?

Yes I would of bought it. Hope everything goes well getting in print.

My takeaway:

1. Eof2 is a very independent loner male (20 year old) character who is the teacher to a couple of young teen characters. Independence, complexity, and favorable interaction with kids. Perhaps that is the formula making a male character appeal to adult women.

2. The book was targeted toward gifted teens. It seems that perhaps there is a wider appeal lurking that I didn't realize. Even though most of the characters in the book are kids (Elof2, 20 yrs old, is the oldest character outside of the minor parent characters), perhaps it still has an appeal to adults (outside of the adults who like living as kids again in their imagination).

This small bit of feedback shows how these feedback campaigns unfold. The people targeted in these campaigns are typically not book reviewers. So the feedback is scanty and requires the author to carefully think about what the little tidbit handed to them means. It's almost as if you build a character in your mind to fully simulate the reader. With enough of these small feedbacks, you can tune your mental image of how your novel is received to be more inline with reality.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ty's Lament

One of the problems with writing a science fiction/fantasy blend novel is that it is hard to give people a true sample of how the novel feels. People have preconceived ideas about what a certain genre should sound like. Perhaps science fiction conjures up visions of spaceships and ray guns and fantasy, fairies and wizards locked in some kind of a battle. Its difficult to convey the feeling of a novel which turns these unusual realms into realms of ordinary people just trying to make it through the day in their ordinary life. Never mind that these people are fairies or beings of great superpowers. In the end, they just trying to have a reasonable life where the comforts that people normally aspire to are theirs. To convey that feeling, without totally giving away the story, I came up with the idea of a character poem. I basically take the feeling one would get about a character during part of the story and distill it down to a poem that provides a strong feeling of the nature of the character. This poem was my first attempt. The character, Ty, is a fairly mysterious third grade boy living in the UK. And no, he is not purely human.

Ty's Lament

The world hates me,

But so many love me,

It's a contradiction I have to live with.

My human dad's love

Surrounds me,

Enclosing me in a world

I never wanted to leave,

A world of stories and music,

A world devoid of hate and death.

My dad was the conveyor of the

Ancient knowledge,

A conveyor for the

Queen of the Distant Fairies,

A secret mom for now,

To replace my human mom who is dust.

My mom's love for me

I wanted to know,

For it was truly magic.

I felt her love before I was born,

My desire was to simply touch it.

But my dad was the trigger

And I was the bomb,

That took her love away,

I touched her mind

For so brief a time,

Before the knife swept me away.

Her brightly colored love fallen,

Like the leaves of autumn,

It's a contradiction I have to live with.