Back in spring, I began attending the monthly meetings of a local writer’s Meetup, and since that time have submitted the first three chapters of The Land Without Mosquitos for review. The response so far has been, shall we say, interesting — my fellow writers find the story a bit bizarre (which they should), but they find the characters interesting, appreciate my style, and have stayed invested in the story. A few critiques will likely influence my next revision of the novel:
- After reading the first chapter (where Jane “discovers” the mysterious object in her apartment), my readers didn’t know what to make of Jane’s confusion; they understood she was looking at an iPhone, but couldn’t understand her lack of recognition. In discussing this response, we agreed that identifying the novel’s genre could be helpful; if readers know the novel is about an alternate reality, they would be more likely to accept Jane’s confusion. Up to that point I hadn’t known how to classify my work — it had both science fiction and fantasy elements, but I didn’t feel it fit neatly into either category — but when I said it was “Alternate Reality Fiction” (is that really a genre?), my reviewers seemed a bit more at ease with Jane’s behavior.
- Jane’s friends and co-workers respond far too calmly to her wild story. Her boss, Gary, is particularly far too conciliatory; in the words of one reviewer, “this guy needs a backbone.” Gary will play a central role in chapter four, and I’m eager to experiment with making him less patient with Jane.
- There’s too many passages that describe Jane’s confusion over an object that is familiar to the reader. One suggestion that I’m eager to follow through with is to transform those passages into dialogue — have Jane point to an object, ask “What’s that?”, and then reply with amazement at the response.
That’s just a sample of the response I’ve received so far. I’m actually quite pleased with the feedback I’ve received, and plan to submit the entire novel for the group’s review.