The second Shara Summers book - entitled DEAD COOL - was critiqued by my writing group this past weekend. Much as I fantasise about writing a book to which the response of all my beta readers is, "this is amazing. Don't change a word", I know it's not going to happen. I don't think it even happens to the award-winning, rather more famous writers.
So what was the verdict on this second Shara adventure, in which she investigates the case of the defenestrated rock star? There are some logistical problems with the plot. Yes, I did already know that. Between draft 1 and draft 2 the murderer changed, throwing up some issues with the original plot - pointing to the first murderer - that now make no sense with the second murderer. I just haven't worked out how to fix them yet.
I got some comments about Shara being too emotionless and wooden to be an actress and/or main character. I got the same comments about early drafts of DEATH SCENE, which I endeavoured to fix. I guess I haven't yet, or she would not be attracting the same comments in the second book.
I am very lazy when it comes to research. This has been thrown up, too, and it's something I have to hold up my hand to. Particularly when it comes to scene setting. This book is set in London, but in some parts I don't know too well. Instead of just skirting over specific locations and street names, I'm going to have to pin the locations down a bit more - have Shara visit specific places, near specific tube stops.
However, there is one particular sub-plot of DEAD COOL that my beta readers appear not to like. When I wrote DEATH SCENE, Shara's love interest Richard was only ever going to be a brief fling. I started Book 2 assuming he was out of the picture for good. However, in writing the book it became clear that Shara had unresolved issues when it came to Richard, and in one scene she decides she wants him back. Well, she is tied up in a basement at the time, thinking she's about to die - such a situation can encourage serious self-reflection.
Anyway, in the next draft I tried to flesh out the relationship between Richard and Shara, and there is a scene at the end where she meets him to try to resolve things between them. My beta readers didn't like that scene. "Too much like a romance novel", they all said.
It has to be said, however, the beta readers present at the crit session were all men. I have not yet had any feedback from my female beta readers. I don't write romance novels. But Shara is a single young woman, and an actress, and if she is to seem like a realistic character she has to have physical relationships. My editor advised me as much, and felt that in the initial draft of DEATH SCENE there was not enough about Shara's relationships. I have been endeavouring to fix this. But the boys thought they were reading a romance novel. Possibly they are not the target audience.
I think I might need some female opinions before I start writing the romance out of the next draft. It will be interesting to see if they have a different view.