I was lucky enough recently to have a successful local author review one of my unpublished novels for me. Reb has a good eye, and a good way of making criticisms without seeming negative. But it doesn't make things easy to hear.
I like to start chapters by setting a scene, then bring in the characters. Wrong, it seems; that can confuse the reader. I thought my way worked to be honest, but there's no point asking for advice if you then ignore it, so out go the "soft" chapter openings.
That I use too many point-of-view characters, I can't deny. Once Reb pointed it out I started to think of ways and occasions I can write the same scene as before, but from the main character's POV. That will smooth the text, make it easier for the reader and also, rather importantly, for an editor. So I'll go through my "trunk" novels, those not yet published, and rewrite like a crazy man. Seems like a lot of work to end up with the same book, doesn't it? But it won't be the same book, it will be a better one, if I do it right.
I do need to keep some of those POV characters, though. Not in every book, but this novel, Black Lord of Eagles, tells the tale of what happens to a culture when it's invaded by people it never knew existed. I can't do that from one point of view, or even two. I want to show the central story, but also how it affects the little people, ordinary people caught up in these great events. So I need to follow threads in the country and in the towns, among priests and warriors, some of which never collide - so one POV is not enough. My job, then, is to cut the number of point-of-view characters as much as I can - and I can cut several - but still keep that structure. Tricky, eh?
Some of these criticisms have been made of me before. I listen, I understand... and then slowly I slip back into my old habits, because in the end as a writer you're sat alone with only your own opinion to judge by. The irony is that to stop this happening I need an editor to constantly nudge me back to the road, but in order to get an editor I need to stay on the road in the first place. In common parlance this is known as "a bit of a bugger." It makes the help of a friend doubly important, so thanks Reb, your time and advice is very much appreciated.
It might even keep me on the road until the end of the year... except I have a bit of a distraction arriving in August when I get married. Two cheers for distraction!