The first response to my latest draft of Stronghold arrived Wednesday evening, and Thursday I was able to sit and process the notes provided. The individual who sent feedback was the first human being other than me to read the book in its entirety, and I was placing great weight on his response.
The experience was harrowing but very different than I expected. While I was ready for a certain level of gut-wrenching anxiety and unreasonable defensiveness to well inside me, I found myself pleasantly surprised. For one, I was very confident when I sat down to read the notes, because I am relatively secure in my book on the whole and I feel that any criticism leveled against it can only improve a solid foundation set in place. (I should note that this is not the case with my National Novel Write Month endeavor)
More importantly, however, the reader's comments were favorable. He not only enjoyed the text but also found it useful and altogether entertaining. Items need fixing, that much is clear, but overall the text worked for him as I hoped it would, and he was very specific about one particular moment with which I wrestled terribly during the writing process.
During the moment in question, he felt the exact emotion I was intending, and he felt it to such a degree that it became questionable as to whether I needed to go as far as I did in my description of it. His reacting in a such a fashion is the best response for which I could have hoped, because it assures me that I hit the note just enough to strike a chord that was both firm and haunting without jarring the reader to the point of recommending its removal. This is the joy of the writer--when one languishes over an important point in his/her story and is affirmed that it rings almost too true to be bearable.
The best aspect of the notes, however, is that they are a point of return in the event that my later reviewers respond less favorably (which may very well be the case). When the gavel hits with the verdict "guilty of being pedantic, obtuse, and downright silly", I can temper my response to such rejection with the affirmations and the assurance that, at least for one reader, the book works on all cylinders. I have a feeling I will need to this more than once.
I am immensely grateful to the Lord and my reader for this early Christmas gift, and I look forward to sharing this book with more people given that the next draft available will be better than the one just critiqued.
Thanks for reading, today, I know this post is incredibly self-indulgent (even by blog standards), but as many of you have been on this journey with me since the blog began in August, I felt this encouraging information was worth sharing.
PS - I am sorry if you came to this post in hopes of reading the actual text from the reader. Unfortunately I did not ask him for permission to post any of his comments, and I did not feel comfortable doing so until he and I spoke further. I will likely wait until I have all the present reviews before posting any direct quotes from any of them.