Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How readers feedback can impact the writing process

My first novel, Sign of the Times is already available on Amazon - only £1.53

Feedback and its impact
I have been receiving reviews, on Amazon and Facebook and from friends too, who have read my first novel and I realise that as I am still relatively near the beginning (ok, now 1/6th of the way through) of my second novel, I am factoring in aspects of my first novel that readers liked.  I am not changing the novel's original path, but rather am expanding on areas which had not yet been set in stone, in line with what my readers like about my writing.  This is not the same as handing over control, or having a contest to see what readers would like to happen in the next novel in a series for example. Neither am I necessarily against those. They have their place.
I'll give you an example - almost all of the reviews I have had for Sign of the Times have indicated in some way about how much they enjoyed my descriptions of Italy. Bibbiena is a real place and I didn't go there to research my novel. I started writing SOTT a year later. I was simply on holiday, with friends and had hired a villa there. Many of the places and the anecdotes are real, or adapted from my experiences there - the description of the food etc, although the characters are of course completely fictional. I have been to Italy many times and speak fluent Italian. This gives me a view of the culture and a different perspective and experience to a non-Italian-speaking tourist. 

As a result of the feedback I have received, I now know that I will work in to my second novel, which initially was only going to be set in Scotland, another country that I have visited - and I will share a little secret with you. It's going to be Spain - Barcelona to be exact. I love Barcelona - I used to live there, so again, I have that insider knowledge that paints detail very accurately. I don't speak Catalan, although I did a little when I lived there, but I do speak fluent Spanish.  This is one of the main reasons why I loved Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind.  I could imagine walking through all the places he depicted. I knew most of them and in fact, I visited Barcelona in Sep 2011 and revisited some of these places with a different mindset, as a result of his novel.  I may well include another city/country also, but I will leave that for later...

Once Sign of theTimes has been 'out' for longer, I am actually going to come back via this blog and ask readers for opinions on certain elements. I have already been asked for a sequel. There's a possibility that I might write one....

Nowadays, particularly with Social Networking sites and the ability to receive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and so many others, we are so much closer to our readers.  I think this is a good thing. No-one's perfect and I am sure not everyone will love every aspect of my books, but I would like them to share their thoughts with me and now, we have that chance.

Today's writing progress - 1800 words. I won't have time to write on Thursday, or unfortunately blog, but I will be here tomorrow and back on Fri. As a result, I have upped the ante and expect to do at least 1500 words a day this week.  Today's chapter was perfect, in the sense that I started and finished one complete chapter. It was always going to be a short chapter, mainly dialogue, but again, I set out what I meant to do. 

Fleshing out characters  - today saw me create a bit more detail around two of the three friends of the main character.  They haven't really been involved much in the novel, but now is when they start contributing.  I haven't yet built character profiles for them, but they made their first appearance in Chapter 7 and now I will have to write character profiles tomorrow, otherwise in twenty pages time I might end up contradicting myself.

Conflicting ideas/differing views
I've been careful to create some characters with wildly differing viewpoints and personalities to the main character.  Reading about people who just agreed all the time, would become terribly boring.  But when you do this, you then have to think about why they behave they way they do, why their beliefs are what they are and you have to become more embroiled in the character. 

Tomorrow I will be back and covering Emotions and Researching your Novel.  Have a great afternoon and look,  I was bang on time. It's not 3pm yet.
Hope you enjoyed today's post, Susan x


  1. Susan - really interesting points about differing characters, I hadn't really thought about people being too alike and therefore boring - but I also agree that this leads to the problem of justifying why they think 'wildly differently' ('because I didn't want you to be bored' maybe won't quite cut it...)

    Setting is so important, isn't it? Just look at Louise Penny - half the time I can't understand her plots (yes, I am slow..) but the Quebec/Eastern Townships settings, plus the descriptions of all the wonderful food, make me long for more.

    Thanks for all these tips,


  2. Hi Rosemary. Glad you found the tips helpful. I think my point is although we often might have a lot in common with our friends, we also have differences. In a novel, it generally makes sense to highlight these differences. I haven't read Louise Penny, but will be sure to look her up, particularly as you say she describes food so well. One of my favourite books is The Food of Love - Anthony Capella, for exactly that reason and it may well be that, plus my love of Italy, which led me to evoke food in such a detailed way in my novel. Setting and more importantly, knowing your setting well, to avoid inconsistencies are crucial. Sooz

  3. Susan - Louise Penny is just wonderful. It's best to read her novels in sequence, but don't be put off by the first one having a bit of a tedious plot - they get much better after that, and they are all mostly set in a fictional and superficially perfect Quebecois village. The police, led by the lovely Inspector Armand Gamache, are called in from Montreal every time there's a murder (!), and they always stay at the village bistro, where the food just makes you want to book a room immediately.

    I haven't read The Food of Love, so I will definitely look that up, thanks for the recommendation.