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Get Awesome Feedback on Any Book You Write

Get Awesome Feedback on Any Book You Write

career inspiration motivation Jun 19, 2024

A few weeks ago, I experienced every coach’s dream — and by extension, every writer’s dream.

One of my clients emailed me to tell me they’d gotten incredible feedback from their beta readers on the manuscript that we’d been working on for the past half a year.

This is the same story she’d written a few years earlier and tried to pitch it to her agent, but came out of it with a lot of feedback and the conclusion was that this manuscript just wasn’t ready yet.

They told her that the story felt unfocused, that some subplots she had begun seemed intriguing but never led anywhere, and, most importantly, that her protagonist wasn’t really doing the job of carrying the story.

When we re-outlined the idea at the beginning of our time together, it became clear that the manuscript’s biggest issue was, in fact, its protagonist. She felt like an observer of someone else’s story, and that made the entire purpose of the manuscript weaker than it should have been.

Now, after we’ve gone through 2 drafts together (and my client did a 3rd revision on her own for a final polish before sending it out), her beta readers came back with feedback saying they loved the protagonist’s voice and related to her.

This is straight out of a beta’s feedback: “I was engaged, intrigued by the characters, who are each flawed individuals. If I wrote so well, I’d be leaping over the moon.”

 

So how did we get it ready?

Why is the manuscript getting better reception this time around? Of course, my client still hasn’t re-pitched this to her agent, so I can’t say with full certainty that they’ll respond differently (though I’m pretty sure they will because her writing is incredible, and I will brag about her when it happens!).

In any case…

What did we focus on to get this manuscript ready?

 

1️⃣ We tightened up her story purpose.

This is something you hear me talk about a lot. But it’s for a good reason! Tightening up a story’s core question will solve 99% of your manuscript’s problems. 

We needed to determine her true motivation for writing this story and what point she was trying to prove.

She started—like most of us do—with an interesting concept she wanted to explore, but she wasn’t 100% sure what she was trying to say with the story. And you have to be sure about that.

ALSO: What Story Are You Telling?

If you’re not, most anyone who reads your manuscript will be able to see your point flailing around in the wind like a badly secured wig. If you do not have a point you’re trying to make with a story, you likely don’t have a story at all. At least not a good one.

You may argue with me on this if you wish, but it’s one opinion I will take to the grave. Knowing why the heck you wrote the story is what sets it apart from bland, commercial fiction.

 

2️⃣ We put way more work into her protagonist

In her original draft, the protagonist fell away to the role of a simple narrator for someone else’s story, and this was the main reason why the people she pitched her project to felt they weren’t connecting to it.

If someone is narrating a story from a close perspective (such as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd focalised perspective) and letting you in, the expectation is that this is their story before it is anyone else’s.

Therefore you must deliver on this promise. You’re gonna have to have some kind of change, some kind of character arc for this protagonist, and it should be the biggest arc in the book. If that’s not the case, why they heck is this person your protagonist?

ALSO: How to Choose Your Narrator

I’m gonna deviate here to tell you I actually had the same problem in the first book I worked on. My protagonist was an observer and his arc was an afterthought. I focused most my energy on the object of his desires instead.

Now, I’m starting a second draft and I almost entirely switched their roles. Yes, my protagonist is still an observer, but now this role is presented as his flaw, one which he must realize and overcome by the end of the story. He’s the character I’m focusing most of my energy on this time around, and the draft already feels stronger.

The other characters are still important, and they still get their own arcs, but these are not as important as the protagonist’s anymore.

And yes, my client's manuscript also had some incredible characters with strong arcs, but at the end of the day, we had to tighten up how they influenced her protagonist.

A protagonist—especially one that narrates in first person—must have a character arc and be positioned as someone the readers relate to and get to know throughout the book.

 

3️⃣ We built out her side-characters and tied up her subplots

There was gold buried in some of her pre-existing side characters, which we dug into—but we did so with the larger story purpose in mind—so that whatever decisions we made actually contributed to that.

These served to build empathy for her protagonist because we built them in a way that would challenge her protagonist’s convictions and beliefs, which needed to change by the end of the book.

Again, the feedback she’d initially received pointed out that some of these characters weren’t developed well enough or didn’t fit into the story.

ALSO: Crafting Complex Characters

So the way we made them fit was obviously by going back around to that annoying little concept I keep bringing up – the story purpose. Usually, this purpose is either the same as, or closely tied to, your protagonist’s character arc.

Everything that didn’t contribute to that larger purpose of her arc was either cut or changed in a way that would compliment or challenge that arc.

 

This is why you need the story purpose and a strong character journey.

 

Those two ingredients are non-debatable if you want to write an outstanding novel that receives great feedback 99% of the time.

If you would like to work with me as a coach to develop your project (this is great for new projects or full rewrites), you can apply to work with me here. If you’ve got a finished project and want me to edit it, you can apply for that here.

I have very limited spots left this year for both coaching and editing, so I recommend booking my services as soon as you know you’ll need them, even if this is a few months in advance.

If nothing else, having a deadline at which you need to send your manuscript to an editor can be a great method to actually finish it.

 


 

FAQs

How to get great feedback on your book?

Your novel should have a strong and relatable protagonist who changes throughout the story and a good story theme or central question that your novel answers.

 

Where can I find beta readers?

You can find beta readers on social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, or in writing group chats on Discord. We have one which you can join here.

 

How can I write a great novel?

A great novel is usually judged by the strength of its characters, the intrigue of the concept, and the delivery of an interesting thematic argument.

 


Char Anna

Char is the author of the writing guide ‘Finish Your First Novel’ and the founder of The Plottery. She’s been in the biz since 2021, and holds a BA in Film & Screenwriting as well as an MA in Creative Writing from Edinburgh Napier University.

Char resides in rainy Scotland with her pup Lavender (who is anything but calm, contrary to what her name suggests), and she writes darker fiction that focuses on unusual family dynamics and lots of queerness.

 

 

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