While I had a short period of crazy work schedule, I backed off from doing any writing on Mall Planet. I took a step back from all the write-ups I did with my writer’s group, with the exception of the anthology pieces. I know I missed reading and reviewing more than half of the submitted material to FSFW (Fresno Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers). Only the former had a deadline to meet, and I met it. As I stated earlier, doing any writing sort of dropped off the radar, with the exception of the piece of my own I submitted for the aforementioned anthology. That was The Alley, now up to version 8, ready for next level reviews. The time crunch was difficult; what with my new job, and new home 200 miles away from Fresno and my friends and fellow writers, I feel I kept up with keeping up pretty well. I even managed to do full write ups on a couple of my peers on the side, as some of us do to gain additional feedback. A couple of said peers even volunteered to read all of Mall Planet.
That was an exciting prospect, considering that if a chapter of Mall Planet is given a write up by the group about every 4 – 6 weeks, they’ll be done with it sometime next year, or longer. Unfortunately, life got in the way. My beta readers had things happen: work schedule changes, babies, health issues. Intellectually, I understand this, given I went through a similar reduction in ability to read my peer’s material when I got that new job. Emotionally, something I probably should not consider when analyzing the situation, I feel differently. The apparent lack of interest in reading more than the dribs and drabs of Mall Planet on a per chapter basis has me speculating on parallel paths. One, the story is not that compelling, and two, my writing isn’t that compelling.
Regarding possibility one, I know in some cases my peers are more inclined to read fantasy over sci fi. I get that. I’m the reverse. My book collection is overwhelmingly sci fi, with my fantasy collection centered around a few writers that meet my criteria for possibility one: Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Tolkien…. I understand that, since I share some of it. Sometimes I even dread some of the fantasy I must review for meetings, since it’s usually not my cup of tea. But I read it anyway, and often am surprised that the story is more compelling than I estimated, or sometimes even the word crafting is pleasantly adept. So I get that these peers didn’t volunteer to become a beta reader for Mall Planet, because the genre itself is not their cup of tea. I get that they sometimes might feel a read through a chapter of Mall Planet is something to get through, with occasional pleasant surprises manifesting in the story or wordcrafting.
I wonder why the more sci-fi oriented haven’t wanted more. I had a couple of beta readers for Mall Planet, but just a few chapters in, they dropped off. Ostensibly, I get that life got in the way: the issues I mentioned above. However, their beta reading didn’t cease for everybody else. Thus, I can only surmise that it was my story that lost thier interest, either through a less-than-compelling story or my writing was full of so many issues they couldn’t suspend their disbelief in story surpassing wordcraftery.
Sounds like an emotional response, doesn’t it? Of course, I am emotionally invested in my story, in my writing in general. But I feel I can be detached about it. Certainly, I can take criticism. Feedback on Mall Planet has not been consistently glowing; rather, I have heard critiques that suggested significant changes to improve serious issues. Most of the time, I readily recognize the feedback as being right on the money. The subsequent changes to later drafts nearly always show improvement, with subsequent feedback reflecting that. My peers have real talent in spotting opportunities to improve my writing. If one of my parallel theories on a dearth of interest in maintaining interest in reading more of Mall Planet sooner rather than later is correct, I’d like to know. Maybe Mall Planet just isn’t that good, and I should move on. Or maybe Mall Planet, if it represents the best my writing can be, should be the example that I should learn from to forever leave writing a hobby, rather than an artistic prospect.
I wish I knew. Ultimately, I’m still back taking a look at the story every day. I’ve learned enough from previous feedback to look for my known issues on my own. Much of the time, I can spot my own tendency to alliteration, or holes in the plot. Grammar I still leave to others who are more skilled at it, but even there I’ve learned to be more conservative in my use of commas- something overused in place of breath marks, if someone is reading it aloud.
I know I should seek out other feedback. There’s got to be writers groups around my new home down here in LA. Here’s where emotions come back into play. Opening up to FSFW was an ordeal as it was. Melodrama aside, even meeting everybody was terrifying. It took me a couple of weeks to work up the nerve to attend a meeting, and then to submit. Repeating the process here in LA scares me even more. But if my need for beta readers is great enough, I’ll overcome it. Maybe then I’ll find out if theory one or two, or a combination of both, are correct. If so, in any combination, I’ll file Mall Planet away with You Too Can Look As Pretty As Us, my non-sci fi story, in a book case, to gather dust.