I’m thirty thousand words into a review of the third draft. I’m not rewriting, although I am correcting the odd glaring typo or badly-constructed sentence. My intention is to give the whole thing a read-through and see how it hangs together. So far, I’m very pleased with how well it reads. There are some very satisfying phrases and a few inspired pieces of dialogue which reveal character as well as being funny, sad, atmospheric, or whatever the chapter requires. Overall, I am proud of it, and I believe in my own abilities and my chances of one day being published.
I am only a third of the way in, I am still reading through the setup, the getting-to-know-you stage. It’s (relatively) easy to write well at the beginning, there is no development of plot or character yet. Once the reader has properly met everyone and found out who they are, then I need to explain why there is a book about them and what they are all going to do for the next sixty thousand words. It may be written well so far, but it is around here that the reader will start to decide if they care or not. It’s not enough for me to have a good opening and hope the reader is hooked – if that quality and interest is not sustained, the reader will close the book, never to open it or any other of my books again. Continuity and credible development of character and plot will also become vital. I should never give the reader a reason to frown and ask why THAT happened. So I read on, and hope that I continue feel my early optimism and pride.
Of course, I may be completely wrong. Everything I have written may be rubbish and I am convincing myself of its quality because I am reading it through rose-tinted blinkers. And that’s where beta readers come in. I have two who are currently reading the same draft as I am, a draft which I know still needs work, and I am curious to see if they make the same observations I do, whether they see the same weaknesses and/or strengths. As readers the two couldn’t be more diverse – the only thing they have in common is the strict instruction to tell me if and when they don’t like parts of the book. Or indeed the whole thing. One is a writer I have read and admire, and she will bring an informed, insider view, an understanding of the art of composition, and indeed the composition of art. She will tell me if the scaffolding holding the whole together is strong enough to support the decorative phrases and cute observations. The other reader is just that – a reader. She consumes disposable chick lit and holiday fiction, doesn’t think about why she likes a book, or about the motivation of characters, or about concepts like conflict and resolution. So (assuming they both make it to the end) I have two extremely different points of view to come. If they both like it, and I like it, maybe my pride will be justified.