Pizza Topings - G.J. Terral

7 May 2024

Bear with me as this is my first blog/guest post that isn’t a traditional book review or ramblings on my own site.

I was struggling to decide on something interesting I could talk about and when speaking with a fellow author working on their debut, the idea that came to me regarded taking advice during your writing/creative process.

I think it was Stephen King that said, write the first draft with the door closed, after that, open the door. He said it, or something very similar, and it stuck with me. The reason I mention it is to say, what Bloodwoven started as to what it finished as changed drastically once I got more people involved, for the better I might add.

I started Bloodwoven, I always knew I wanted that to be the name, in May 2020. I remember because it was on my birthday, and I had a spurt of inspiration regarding the Hero’s Journey and a farm boy and the magic system I planned to implement.

At this point I had no outline and by the time I felt comfortable showing this project to my critique group it became evident that would be a fatal flaw.

Find people who will be honest with you. They can be polite, they can be brutal, but above all they need to be honest.

Bloodwoven as a concept worked, but the plot didn’t. It meandered. Lin had no real stakes; he was a farm boy thrust into a rebellion plot who didn’t understand the magic, and no one would teach him. To be blunt, it was a mess and my group let me know.

So, I outlined it. And decided I didn’t like the farm boy route. Not for this story. I aged Lin up. Put him with the “bad guys” of the original concept, and suddenly, I had a story that involved politics, tension, and questions of belief and faith that weren’t there when Lin was a teenage farm boy.

But it still didn’t feel right.

This isn’t to say my experience is universal, or unique. Plenty of stories go through various drafts and stages. What I’m trying to say, is that you should listen to your gut as much as you listen to outside opinions and vice versa. Some sentiments might not make the story you’re trying to tell better, some might.

At this point in Bloodwoven’s process I decided a woman who was killed in the first or second chapter should live and be Lin’s introduction to the rebellion. It made sense. It felt right. I shared this version with someone on Reddit and they offered invaluable feedback. Most of it good. But they asked one simple question that changed the entire story again.

In some cases, you’ll find that not all feedback will be applicable and not everything someone says should be incorporated. Think of it like toppings on a pizza. Just because someone prefers Jalapeno with their pepperoni and onion (I do) doesn’t mean it will suit everyone’s tastes. Some things can be objectively bad or poorly done, but most of art is subjective.

Make sure the ingredients/toppings you’re adding help make the pizza the way you want it.

So, the question they asked that shook me to the core? Why did the baby have to die?

At this point I’d gotten feedback from a critique group, a redditor, my family, and a handful of friends who hadn’t read it but who I’d bounce ideas from. Not one person had suggested the baby needed to live. But seeing that question… it made something click.

So, the baby lived, and I rewrote Bloodwoven for the fourth time. It gave my protagonist more purpose, added tension for the antagonist. Solidified some themes.

That’s not to say Bloodwoven is perfect. But by taking advantage of advice, by having an open mind when listening to feedback, I’m confident it’s a better story than I ever could have crafted alone.

Writing is a solitary act. If you can craft a perfect story without feedback, I think you might be a generational talent.

Open the door, kill your darlings, add new ones, and maybe kill those too.

I don’t know that I’m talented, but I do know I wouldn’t be half as good as I am if not for the support from others and being willing to take advice and criticism.

If you ever feel bad about hurting a loved one’s feelings regarding their writing, just think about how you’d willingly disagree with them over what sort of toppings you might want on your pizza and go from there.

Shameless plug—Bloodwoven will be out May 9th and if any of what I said above makes you think I’ve written an interesting book, the eBook is available for pre-order through Amazon!


About G.J. Terral


After a drunken game of D&D I DM'd ended rather splendidly, I was told I needed to write stories. A hobby that had always burned fiercely in my heart but that I set aside. Well, I took passion to pen (so to speak), and after many trials, errors, and learning spurts, I have finally finished my first novel.

When I'm not writing, I'm spending time with my amazingly supportive wife, playing pickleball or video games, and, of course, reading. Joe Abercrombie is one of my largest modern inspirations.