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  • Writer's pictureGareth Williams

Dealing with criticism

As promised, this is a post about disappointing feedback. It is easy to feel bruised and retreat in the face of criticism. I know that's how I feel. But I am trying to be more robust because we learn from our mistakes. If I want to write books; then I have to listen to opinions about my writing. I may not always agree but, in a real sense, the reader is always right.

So, here goes. I submitted a pet project to a national historical novel competition in 2023. The judge felt the main character (William Augustus Bowles) was unsympathetic but commented on the strength of other aspects of the book's structure. I submitted the book for a developmental edit, and again, these other features were singled out as having potential if I developed them further. So, I spent a year doing that and resubmitted for the 2024 competition.

As you have probably guessed from the theme of this blog, it didn't go well! Once again, the main character was singled out for having opaque motivations - which I had withheld deliberately as these were explored in the two other structural elements I had been encouraged to develop.

This year's judge was not convinced by these additions, stating that they 'confuse and dilute the main thrust of the story'.

Other criticisms included 'the very short sentences and paragraphs sometimes convey pace but there is no variety in the narrative voice. This creates a jerky impression...'

It is pointless for me to object that the publisher of my trilogy, The Richard Davey Chronicles insists on short paragraphs!

The book is 550 pages long and is the result of intensive research but this nevertheless left me accused of a 'lack of detail'. As a fictional biography, the book spans William's life - choices must be made about what to include but Captain Liar and the Forgotten Flag was weakened by 'abrupt changes in time and place... forc(ing) the reader to keep adjust(ing) focus'.

Finally, I was advised to undertake more detailed research about the military history of the time to add more depth to my writing. I have lost count of the military history books I have read for this project. What to then include is a difficult balance, as a review of my first novel, Needing Napoleon commented, there can be 'too much about buttons'!

So, what am I going to do? I have other projects on the go. I have put William's story in a metaphorical drawer. Perhaps I'm still processing. Maybe I will dust it off and have another go at a later date. Maybe not.

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