I have been fortunate to have several editors and agents look at my first novel, Hack the Yak. Now, the hard part: Which suggestions will I ignore?
When I started HTY, I just sat down and wrote the story. When I needed a description, I figured a way to put one in.
The story starts (the ‘inciting incident’) with the protagonist (Joe Mayfield) and his wife discovering that she has cancer, and that the HealthScore, which in 2049 controls the kind of treatment one gets, has been altered. I began telling the story several months later, with Joe sleepless in a little motel in North Dakota.
I was so pleased with myself. I fit the physical description of Joe into a sequence in which he’s shaving after a night staring at the ceiling which allowed to recount parts of the inciting incident.
So those knowledgeable people that have looked at the story have said, (a) Don’t lead off with cancer; (b) Never use a dream sequence … too trite (but, but, but it wasn’t a dream … sleeplessness, not a dream); (c) Don’t EVER describe a person’s physical features by having the person look in the mirror (uhh … that’s on page 2).
So, what can I say? My immediate reaction is humiliation … the worst you can fling at a writer is faint praise hinting at underlying banality. On the other hand, what a learning experience.
“NEVER’s” are generally as stultifying and hackneyed as the cliches they are condemning. Still, it is great to get such feedback or any feedback, and the question, as with writer’s circles, is “Which advice is noteworthy and which is unworthy?”
John, I know how frustrated you are. Although, I have read that one should never describe a person by having them to look the mirror. I suppose that big question is do you feel you would be making too much of a sacrifice by making those changes? If so well, sometimes you gotta stick to your guns. Otherwise, why not? You’re getting feedback, personal feedback. How often do we long for some of that! Your story sounds interesting, though. Don’t give up!