At some point you have to get feedback. No man or book is an island. It may on occasion be a peninsula with very few visitors and no gift shop. However whilst it is often said you should create art for your own pleasure without reference to others, the reality is that all acts of creativity exist in some form of context and it would be a perverse type of solipsist that didn’t want some reaction to their work critical monetary or otherwise. Of course friends and family are usually the first port of call and, let’s be honest, you are expecting uncritical praise and encouragement which by and large I have received . Except from my eldest son who, as a scientist and blogger in his own right, is genetically incapable of not telling the truth who struggling, I suspect, with my slightly florid faux Victorian style suggested that I should read Hemingway “he’s a really good writer.” Point taken David. In my defence the style, however badly executed, is deliberate.
Eventually though you need to show what you have done to someone who doesn’t know you, has no idea about the context or reasons for your writing but who does have experience and knowledge of writing and the publishing world. You need to do this for many reasons the chief of which is “am I deluding myself that I can write” closely followed by “is what I am writing of any merit or interest to anybody else”. I genuinely don’t believe there are many artists who do not want their work to be enjoyed or appreciated by others. Even if driven by inner demons, we are at heart social creatures who prefer to be accepted and by extension that includes any act of creativity. So objective feedback is critical, nothing and nobody is perfect whatever we aspire to say or do.
So here is verbatim my first objective independent feedback on the first few thousand words of my first draft.
“Well, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read so far of your book. The thing that stands out the most is the characterisation which I think is superb. Mr Babbage and Salt really appeal, though the others are very distinct also.I think that’s one of the most difficult things to do; to give a number of characters distinct and three dimensional personalities. They all really come alive. The whole idea of the cadre is apparent here..each one bringing a particular skill to a particular enterprise. The fact that they are personally at odds with each other makes it really funny . Tennyson and the poem for example…….Salt’s overpowering, threatening presence amongst the learned men..though he’s certainly not without humour himself. I keep seeing Oliver Reed.
I can see that dialogue is not a problem for you here. I think you’ve captured the texture and mode of the elongated sentence structure associated with the period. My only point here is that it may obscure meaning for the average reader who may find this sort of language difficult. At this point you really need to ask yourself who the intended reader is. I think also you should spell out in this opening segment what exactly ‘the mission’ is going to be ( the idea is implanted) though you don’t have to go into a massive amount of detail.
I like the roughness, rowdiness of the general scene created. I think a lot of writers and screen -writers avoid that kind of detail…the sheer filth of it all. I do think the first segment could be cut back a bit but don’t worry about that now.
Is this novel going to be from Perrin’s point of view throughout? Are we going to follow him through the whole novel? He’s a really good character. ..rather naive though by no means stupid.I think the reader will want to get to know why he is there pretty soon.
I do admire your ability to stay in the present tense. Our natural story telling mode is in the past tense. I don’t think you slipped once!
What fun you must have doing some of your research on the streets of London.”
Yeah, I know what you are thinking. “He only published it ‘cos it was positive. I bet he’s got lots that told him not to give up the day job”. Well all I can say to you unbelievers is no that’s it. As and when I start to get rejection or negative correspondence I shall publish that to. However at the moment I am buoyed and comfortable in the thought that I am not completely mad and useless, which is after all what we all want to know.