Last week I received some really good feedback from my chapter posted on Scribophile. A sum total of 3,588 words as in-text critique, plus copious notes! So I decided to pare down what I got to the basics, to find the common denominator, and make the best use of what I received.
The first is the department that was harped on the most: line editing. I did edit the chapter in question before posting it, but the edits I received were very detailed, and almost all of them made the passage sound better, so that was very helpful. Here is an example of a sentence every reader wanted me to change. After reading the first two critiques it was almost funny waiting to see what the next few had to say about it!
The bathroom mirror was greasily streaked over the sink.The options I was provided with for replacement read:
The bathroom mirror over the sink was greasily streaked.
The bathroom mirror was streaked with greasy smudges.
Greasy marks streaked the bathroom mirror over the sink.
Greasy streaks marred the bathroom mirror positioned over the sink.As far as my knowledge goes, all of the above are grammatically correct. All of them convey the same basic information. However, some flow better, both as sentences and in the paragraph of text. I just need to pick the best one, or cut the sentence entirely and convey the information some other way. Dialogue comes to mind.
Another thing some of my readers commented on was dialog tags other than "said." I have heard arguments that these make writing clunky and juvenile. If you look closely in published writing, you can find a few authors that use them (J.K. Rowling comes to mind), but most authors do not. I put them in initially to help convey the emotion of my speaker, but this is a crutch. Either the dialog itself or the action of my character should convey that emotion. Otherwise, my dialog tags are acting as "tells" when I should be letting the writing "show" the story. So I will be fixing those.
Several of my readers asked for more description. This made me sad, because I am always doing this when I read other people's work, and I should have done it in mine. I need to find a way to add more without giving the reader an info-dump.
Several readers asked for more foreshadowing. This confused me a little, because, to my mind, foreshadowing should only become evident when you get to the part that was foreshadowed. Otherwise I feel like the reader is being beaten over the head with symbolism. I don't believe in stupid readers, so I won't treat my readers as such. (Funny enough, there is foreshadowing. If my critiquers keep reading, maybe they'll find it :) )
Another request was for more of a lead-in to the next chapter. This does need to be addressed, because the chapter just kind of ends. I think this was probably because I wrote this story during NaNoWriMo two years ago, and then I was in the mindset of "a chapter a day, 1,667 words, then done," a frame into which most stories do not fit.
One of my characters is meant to be extremely anal. Somehow, he impressed upon my readers that he was the responsible one. That will take the most effort to fix out of any of these problems. It would be easy to do as far as how much writing needs to be done, because I could just add a few more thoughts and comments from him. However, he is the viewpoint character, so my readers will automatically sympathize with him. I need to amp up the other characters' reactions to what my up-tight character has to say to make him convincing as controlling and unreasonable. Their reaction will sell him way more than his own behavior.
If you haven't checked out Scribophile, here is another plug. This site is an excellent way to get feedback from other writers. Unless you pay for the full version, you can only post two works at a time. They also recommend posting less than 5,000 words at a time so that you can get more critiques. So, unless you want to fork over some dough, or your readers want to keep up with each new chapter you post, it can be difficult to get over-arching feedback. However, just with one chapter posted, I have gotten outstanding, constructive feedback. I will post again in the (far) future when I have cycled every chapter through the review process and let you know how my story fared overall.