Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘feedback

Pitch Feedback – #amwriting, well I was

with 2 comments

Awake in the middle of the night last week, having tossed and turned for one hour, read for another, and still nowhere near dropping off, I asked myself, what would I do if I had a week to live. The first thing that popped into my mind was that I would contact the agent to whom I pitched three weeks ago to let her know my revised manuscript would not be arriving in her inbox. This was a surprise to me. Is this really the most important thing I would need to do during my last days? Probably not, but the thought did spur me into action. Since my pitch meeting on 27th November I have been thinking about the changes the agent suggested, and attempted a few false re-starts to my manuscript. However, later on in the morning that this life-limiting thought arrived, I finally buckled down and set to work on the first five chapters of my book.

Chapter 2 has disappeared, being chopped up and pasted into Chapters 4 and 5, as Chapter 5 moves forward to the position of Chapter 2. Keeping track of all the pages and moved paragraphs has been a task, but one I’ve enjoyed as I see the start to the book reshape itself. I am yet to discover if this will result in additional changes through to the end.

The agent suggested I have started my book in the wrong place. Instead of Chapter 1 being a character looking back retrospectively on a lunch at which she hears some bad news, I need to open with that lunch and the receiving of that news. This I am still struggling with, as it was hard enough to get the first chapter written the tenth time I attempted it. Having to shift the timeframe, and add in a character’s voice I was reluctant to write in the first place, is a difficult task. I have to remember faint heart never won fair lady. Unfortunately, with the Christmas holidays almost upon us, my colleagues seem to be dropping like flies and I’m the only one who seems to be available to fill in. My work schedule has gone bonkers, and my re-started novel languishes neglected…. I’m going to have to take some time off in January!



Written by Sarah Ann

December 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Interpretation services required

with 7 comments

I have heard back from the agent to whom I sent the synopsis and first three chapters of my book. His response:

“I’m so sorry but I just did not fall in love with this. Good luck elsewhere.”

My eternally optimistic self takes this as a positive – the writing wasn’t criticised, he just found the opening to the story underwhelming. However, having no previous experience, I am at a loss as to how to interpret this hand-written note appended to the bottom of my covering letter.

Calling all those with experience of agents, and the doomsayers and pessimists – bring me back down to earth. Tell me what he really means.

Written by Sarah Ann

April 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Beta-reader feedback #2

with one comment

(Click for part 1.)

My mother has spoken. Reading chapters 1-5 she thought, ‘What is this about? Why am I bothering?’ She persevered and from chapter 6 onwards she said it raced along. Then she asked if I’d been on a writing course (no) and if I’d written to a formula (I wish).

Male – 49 – has finished (which he doesn’t normally do with a book) and reported that the dialogue was good, although there was too much at times.

F – 45 – (who ended up in floods of tears) went through the document and highlighted words/ phrases she didn’t understand and talked me through them so I am able to change/ adapt in the next edit.

And I’ve picked up another reader – F – late-40s. Via email she wrote that she’s a sensitive soul and was crying by page 8. Her step-mum is a published writer and I have been given her email address and permission to get in touch.

I really have to stop procrastinating now, write a synopsis (help) and get on with that agent’s letter before I work in everyone’s useful comments. (Yes, I am being selective.)

Dear. Mrs Smith…..

Written by Sarah Ann

May 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

WIP Update – Beta-reader feedback

with one comment

Three of my beta-readers have finished, two are halfway through. I can’t believe they’ve read/ are reading so quickly – maybe that’s an indicator I need more words.

I hate to categorise in terms of gender and age, but it’s going to be easier to do that, in order to pass on their comments, than use names and provide back-stories.


F – 52 – finished – annotations to manuscript and face-to-face conversation:  ‘I’ve marked the typos. [When will I ever be rid of them?] It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read. I enjoyed it and engaged with the characters. I liked the emails alternating with chapters. I liked the knitting details.’

In the text, she’s highlighted passages that she feels are too descriptive/ unnecessary and turned lots of my full-stops (where I want long pauses) into commas.  She picked up on language where she heard my voice and not the characters’ – very useful and something I only see after a distance of time. She felt the writing changed halfway through. Most annotation is in the first third – did it get better or was she caught up in the story? She didn’t like some of the language used (too short sentences versus too flowery), but she didn’t pick up that each chapter was written from a different character’s point of view. I need to ask the others whether they did!

She pointed out there was no reference to a wider circle of friends. Hmm? I’m not sure whether it’s necessary. All the action takes place around a core group of four or five. The story is written from their individual points of view at different times. I’d have to change too much to include more people who aren’t relevant to the story arc.

She thought there was too much focus on one character in the last chapter, but that’s what I wanted. I’m not sure what to do about that, although I’ve never been happy with the last chapter.


F – 58 – finished – via email: ‘I feel sorry for Adam.’ [That’s good because it means I’ve created characters that she can feel for.]

‘Should we know what’s going to happen from chapter 1?’ [Er, yes. That is the point of the book – to follow the friends of a dying woman, and how they cope or don’t, through her final months.]

She’s passed the manuscript on to someone else to read, who might be more constructively critical. She also has a neighbour in her village who might be able to give professional (agent-type) advice. I need to draft a letter.

In response to my prompting about the chapters being from different POVs, she had noticed.


F – 45 – finished – via text: ‘I’ve finished and am in floods of tears. [While I don’t want to upset my best friend, it is good to have provoked such a reaction.] It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read. It’s wonderful. I feel privileged to have read it. There are a few things I’d change. The only title I can come up with is, ‘Casting Off.’ [I have texted back asking her to put her critical head on before we speak later today.]


M – 49 – halfway through – via email: ’I’m not a great reader. I’m halfway through and the plot’s starting to pick up. It’s not a bloke’s book. You’ve spelt cocoanut wrong.’  [I’m waiting until he’s finished for more.]


M – late-50s – halfway through – via email: ‘You’re right, it needs another title. I’ve got half an idea of one. So far only one real criticism – I know and understand the knitting references but am fairly certain 99% of men would not.’ [Does that matter? Do you need to know and understand everything? I didn’t think there was that much knitting in it!]


All comments have been far too positive for my liking so I’m going to give a copy to my mum. She’s a retired teacher and has a medals and missions approach to life – there is nothing that cannot be improved upon and she never marks excellent on a survey unless things really were second to none. Even when she’s had a fantastic time, she will add a caveat. She’s not the sort of person I go to first for feedback.

I’m also feeling brave enough to send it to another friend who writes. We have different styles, different ways of doing things – she wants feedback as she writes and will send out rough drafts; I need to happy with, and to have exhausted, my words before I want anyone else’s input. She’s also one who tends to temper her praise in a way I sometimes find nit-picking.

I’m collecting comments and won’t make any changes until they’re all in.


Written by Sarah Ann

April 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

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