Authors need good feedback if they are to sharpen their storytelling skills. You can't do it if all you hear is your own voice, or that of someone close who will tell you what you want to hear. My latest book has proved this to me several times. As you would expect, when an author sends the finished manuscript of a book to the publisher, he/she thinks it is just about perfect. The story makes sense to you, you think you've covered all the plot holes, you think you've picked up and tied off all the loose threads. Then your editor gets hold of it ...
If you have a good editor, they will tell you in no uncertain terms where your story is weak, where characters lack credibility, where something is confusing, or illogical to a reader. And, believe me, that last word is all important. As an author, you may think the story flows, that the characters are all clear cut, that the dialogues are easy to follow and the 'speakers' are identifiable, but your 'readers' don't know the story as you do. They don't have the characters playing in their heads as you did, and now your writing needs to convey those voices in ways that make all this crystal clear. This is beyond mere 'line editing', this is 'developmental editing'. If you are writing a series - as I am with the Harry Heron books - this editing process can get fraught. Remember, the editor may also be editing several other stories in between your books, so it is up to you to address any anomalies the editor identifies.
It is tremendously encouraging to have feedback too from Beta Readers which confirms that the editor was right, and even more so when they confirm that the characters, and the universe, you have created is not just believable, but likeable. I've had some great feedback from the Beta Readers on this book, and here is a sample of what one wrote summing up her impressions -
Favourite characters is a tough question. Obviously Harry Heron is the hero, but I liked most of the senior officers, even if they were basically there to explain what was happening in the big wide world. Why? They were real leaders. They weren’t just figureheads at a distance. They were integral to the plot, receiving intel and making decisions. The admirals and captains all worked with their teams instead of doing the old Captain Kirk thing of issuing orders with no thought of consequences. The Brigadier on the planet Peiho 4, despite being the enemy, was treated as a fully-rounded person and actually a decent leader, just on the wrong side from our point of view. That’s much closer to life than you usually get in fiction.
It was interesting to see so many female leaders, on an equal footing with the men in terms of their personal strengths and weaknesses. It went totally unremarked and was a fascinating hint at what equality could be like if it’s ever allowed!
So there you have it, a taster which I will hope encourages you to give it a try when it is released around the end of this month. Keep an eye out for Harry Heron; Savage Fugitive, Book 4 in the Harry Heron series, on Kindle and in Paperback, on sale soon.