The Value of Feedback

I know I keep mentioning Redwall Survivor, but I’ve learned so much over the last couple months in this writing game!

Things are getting tighter. We’re in Round 5 now, and six contestants remain. Four of the original ten have been voted away. Three more rounds of voting left to go before we have it down to the final three.

Let me give you a breakdown of what we go through each round. In a sense, it usually starts around midnight (10 p.m. for me!) on the day the voting closes. We all cluster onto our Skype chat and await the results. Airan (our moderator) lets us know when the results are available and we scurry to the forum for the “Round X Voting Results”. Sighs of relief and tears of loss are shed and then back in the chat we all begin to hash out what’s going to happen in the coming round.

We’ve had a very rough outline we’ve been following this whole time and a common goal we’re aiming at, but each writer is bringing their own character and their own ideas to each round. Sometimes making all those ideas mesh into one unit is very tricky and after the vote each round, plans have to be rearranged, because Character A and B had planned to do such and such in this round, but then Character B was voted off and will now die in the story so what they’d planned could no long be done. One round in particular hit me hard that way, in that the character I had planned on interacting with was the one voted away.

So we sit and begin figuring out what will have to change, how we can fix the hole left by the departing cast member, and what our individual goals are for our characters. Often, Airan has reasons that the voters have sent for why they decided to vote a cast member out and he will share those with us. This helps us improve our writing and storytelling, since these comments can often give us specific areas to work on.

After getting a rough plot for the round and a rough posting order based on what each of us wants to do, we each retreat to our own space and begin working out our posts. We have a “Pre-Post” board hidden on the forum where we post the early drafts of our stories. Some members like to post outlines here so everyone else can get an idea of what’s going on in their story, some just post a rough story. Some get their story up in the eleventh hour. đŸ˜› We critique and check SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar) on each others post (sometimes rearranging the posting order last minute) and then start posting the finished stories for all the readers. The round closes and we all sit back for two days of voting before we start the crazy cycle over again.

Here’s where I’m getting to the point of this. Last Wednesday night, we learned the fate of one of our beloved cast. We hashed a few things out in those wee morning hours, and Thursday I started on my post and got a rough draft up in “Pre-Post.” Unfortunately, I hated what I’d written. As I skimmed through other rough drafts and outlines, it seemed like everyone else had such epic ideas and exciting things happening in their posts. Mine was pretty lame in comparison. I said something in the chat about my post and one cast member said he’d read it over and send me his thoughts. A bit later he offered to do a Skype call with me and together we discussed my post and what I liked and what he liked and he gave me some of his thoughts. I made notes and then tackled the post again.

At the same time as I was struggling with my post, another cast member was having a few issues of her own. I read over her post and sent her my thoughts, giving her a couple of my own ideas on directions she could take if they appealed to her. Her post is mostly complete now and sounds so much better than it did in the rough draft stage.

As for myself, I had a more complete draft up by Monday and I had two different members of the Survivor cast comment on the final scene in my post. Both felt the scene was a little awkward and forced, so with a little help, I rehashed that scene and rewrote it.

Now an updated version is sitting in the “Pre-Post” and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

That’s one of the beautiful things about this competition. We are competing, yes, but we’re also a team. Given the short turnaround time involved in these posts (less than a week between rough draft and publication, generally), we rely heavily on each other to help check for errors and make our posts the best they can be. In fact, I’m noticing a trend that those who are getting pre-posts up early and getting feedback and acting on some of that feedback are doing better when the vote comes around as opposed to those who are posting later and missing out on vital feedback (or disregarding feedback all together).

I’m going to be very sad when this competition ends, because it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot about writing, revision, and critiquing. I’m hoping I can keep in touch with the members of the cast after Mossflower Odyssey III ends, because there are a few of them who I’d love their thoughts on the work I’ve got that’s soon to be published.

Have you been reading The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade? Got a favorite character? Or have you ever participated in a story project like this? Let me know in the comments!

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