My IR’s Reaction – Part 2

Part 1 was getting over my fear of giving my manuscript to my IR. Part 2 is about his reactions to it.

Like I mentioned in Part 1, I was scared to hand over my manuscript to my partner/IR, Lewis. He’s a great guy, super nice, and probably the last person who would say “lol wat shit” to me. He would, however, tell me if it needed work…or if I should abandon all hope and start something fresh, because the ideas weren’t that great. A bitter-sweet situation, because you want the feedback, but you’re a bit scared to hear it. That’s how I felt, at least. Interesting aside: A Japanese substitute for the expression “bitter-sweet” is a “double-edged sword.” I think that phrase is a bit more suited to how I felt, in that this situation had the potential to both help and hurt me.

Lewis started to read my manuscript, and he couldn’t put it down! This was not what I was expecting at all. I honestly thought he’d get bored of it and I’d find it sitting on his desk buried under some old bills and a couple grocery receipts, a few stray notes lingering here and there on the pages. The fact that this alone didn’t happen is great, and a huge confidence boost (a confidence boost which realistically could be snatched away once the manuscript it handed over to the masses, but I’ll get into that some other time).

I kept asking Lewis how he felt about certain characters and their actions/reactions. Lewis’ feedback was generally positive and he liked the characters. The protagonist is a teenage girl who is pretty open about her feelings. You know, the opposite of a stoic man in his late twenties. I feared that he would be annoyed by her personality, inner monologue and snap-decision making. But nope, he liked her, and understood her reactions and motivations better than I did. Again, a huge plus.

The ending of my book has two cliffhangers: the last two chapters end with two big things happening. Lewis was sitting in bed reading the end of the book, next to me (I let him this time). After he read the second-to-last chapter, he shouted, “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT!” Man, I couldn’t stop smiling. This was exactly what I wanted. It was a great feeling.

But for me, the real holy shit moment was the last chapter. This blew my mind while I was plugging away the keyboard writing it, giving me goosebumps. I said to him “oh just wait until you read the last chapter!” I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to say and how he was going to react. He’ll lose it completely, I thought, grin on my face.

His reaction was disappointing. He said “oh, ok.” No enthusiasm. No reaction. Just “oh, ok.” Yeah, turns out the last chapter actually hurt the real cliffhanger, which ended up being the second-to-last chapter. The last chapter spoiled the shock of the one before it, because it revealed too much and gave my reader a sense of the inevitable outcome. Ouch.

But, once I got over my huffy moment, I realized that his feedback was an opportunity. “What if I made the last chapter the first chapter of the second book?” I asked. Lewis got excited again, saying, “Yeah, that’s a great idea! Let it end on the second-last one. That chapter and cliffhanger was great.” Woop wooooop. Like a double-edged sword, it hurt and helped me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Do I have any more clichés to chuck at you? No, but if I think of some, I’ll add them in later (just kidding).

Anyone else encountered a situation like this? I’m interested to hear. It was exciting for me, as this is the first time I’ve let someone read my manuscript. It stung at times, but was definitely worth it to see him lose his shit over a cliffhanger (even if it wasn’t the one I was hoping for) and to get some ideas on how to move forward.

My IR’s Reaction – Part 1

So, I’ve established that I am an aspiring self-published author. However, what I didn’t mention anywhere on this website is that I am a very shy, terrified (you will see this word a lot in this article), aspiring self-published author. Terrified about letting people see my work, terrified about what they will say about my work, and like the vast majority of the population, terrified of failure.

I’ve had my manuscript ready to be reviewed and read by others since February, 2017. So yeah, over a year. I’ve been talking about it for that long, too. Driving my partner insane, telling him I can’t let him read it because it’s “not ready,” more so worried that if he read it before I rewrote 600 times and checked it for errors 213,322 times, he would hate it and never want to finish it. Hell, even while I traveled for 4.5 months as a backpacker, I carried that tome with me despite only have 7kg and a 25L backpack to live out of, determined to “finish it up so my partner could read it!”

Then I read Stephen King’s highly-acclaimed On Writing, and he said something along the lines of “just give whatever you have to your IR and let them read it, because if you don’t, you might end up changing things that are actually good and losing them forever.” He probably didn’t put it like that, he’s much more eloquent (obviously). But yeah, you get the idea.

With this horrifying idea in mind, I said to myself, “if I don’t give him my manuscript now, I will never do it.” So I told my partner, “You’re getting it Saturday. I’m printing it, and you’re getting it. Just know that I need to change some things and I’m aware of the mistakes that need to be fixed.” He was thrilled. He really is lovely, my partner, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

“Saturday” turned out to be a few weeks later, but he got the manuscript. The terror boiled up inside me as I handed it over, and like the dramatic girl I am, I ran and hid in my room under my blankets for about an hour after I gave it to him. Thankfully, he finds this odd and often immature behaviour endearing.

For a while, he wasn’t allowed to be in the same room as me when he read it, because I experienced bad anxiety knowing he was looking at it. But as he got further into the manuscript, my partner (Lewis) couldn’t put it down. He sat and read it for 6 hours straight once. I’ve never seen Lewis read anything for that long, except for when he was forced to on a plane for lack of anything better to do. Lewis stayed up late during the week to the point where he had to tell himself “No, put it down, I need to go to bed or I’ll be exhausted tomorrow.”

Lewis noted some mistakes, but there were ones I was aware of. But every time he came to talk to me about, I felt the wall of terror rise up inside me and I started to shut down. The only way I was able to surpass it was to tell myself, “Ava, if you can’t handle your partner talking about it, how the hell are you going to publish it and have people you barely know rip it apart?” Telling myself this was how I managed to get through the initial anxiety. Eventually, I came to enjoy discussing the manuscript with Lewis. Every morning on our drive to work, we’d talk about it. I’d get excited, and I was finally able to ask someone, “Hey, what do you think about this character? Do you like them?” or “Does this idea work?” or “Does this annoy you? Because it’s supposed to.”

My advice: Yes, it’s terrifying. Yes, you might need to hide under your blankets and you might need to tell your IR to go away while they read it for the first little bit. But it will get easier. And guess what – you get to talk about your book, your characters and the world you created, with someone you can trust, too.

But more importantly, I think the advice I gave myself is what you need to consider. If you are serious about getting your book published, one day you are going to have to face the music, which will come in the form of your critics. And having an IR you can trust do an initial read-through will be your first step towards facing said music. But it will also help you make your book better, which should be your primary focus. Haters gonna hate, no matter what you write. Haters are just waiting, hoping, DREAMING that something new will pop up so they can say, “wow lol wat shit” even if it is the furthest thing from shit. So focus on your book, your goal, and moving forward, and ignore the imaginary haters in your mind.