I greatly appreciated the input of those who participated in my story wall at the March Journey meeting. I had brought forward a YA science fiction novel that I am in the process of editing, hoping to focus on one chapter/element in particular which has given me significant issues in previous drafts.
I had gone into the exercise with little preparation, other than having known my story inside out from multiple drafts. I began by describing the world in which my story is set, then gave a description of four characters. I then gave a synopsis of the novel as a whole, then went into specifics on the first three chapters, leading up to the area where I was having difficulty. My biggest stumbling block was figuring out a way to get the two main characters into the same place and situation, but still feel natural. The group gave me excellent feedback on the novel and characters and provided me with a few different options for how to change the problem chapter.
My advice for members looking to participate in story walls in the future is to go into it with a good synopsis and know beforehand what your biggest issues are so that the group can better focus on them. I would say that one should not over-prepare or bog the listeners down with too many details, as these could distract from the actual issue. I brought up additional plot points and arcs as necessary in response to questions, but I think what made the exercise work for my particular group was that I needed new ideas and I allowed the group freedom to explore ideas without worrying how they may or may not affect other parts of my novel—that’s for me to work on after the story wall. I think it also helps to have a small, but dedicated group. Too large of a group and the participants can get off-topic or hung up on specific things, too small and there are less ideas to be pitched.
Overall, I think this was a very good exercise for me and my novel (especially at this stage in editing) because it allowed me to receive feedback from other writers on my novel as a whole (with some much-appreciated validation!), but it also allowed me to talk out some issues and receive new ideas on how to approach them. I think the best part for me, however, was receiving questions from the group, which made me focus on certain points, figure out things to explain better in the story, or to simply better explain my premise to the group.
Again, I am very thankful to my group and really appreciated the time they put in trying to help me work through this chapter. Your ideas were great and I can’t wait to play around with them and see which one ends up clicking into the story.