I received an intelligent, thoughtful, incisive first read on my new book, a memoir about my mother’s early life and her meeting my father in England during World War II.
Here’s what my first reader said.
I read this with great pleasure.
I would like more of you in the book, more about your mother’s decline and your feelings about it.
I expected this. After years of hiding my feelings inside my fictional characters, it’s time to step out from behind the curtain.
Less genealogy. Your Aunt Dolly and her daughter Ave especially tiresome. (Forgive me).
I do forgive her. Aunt Dolly and her daughter deserve a paragraph, not pages.
There WAS real suspense about whether your father and mother would get married after all the obstacles.
This was the best comment of all. I mean, here I am, the daughter telling the story, so surely the reader knows from the first page of the book, that my parents did manage to get married and have me. But, during my thirty-plus years of publishing, I’ve learned a few things. If the story is compelling enough, the reader will stick with you even though she knows the ending already. She just doesn’t know how the characters got there. That’s where your hook lies.
This is my second attempt at writing my family history. The first, a short memoir piece entitled DON’T KNOCK UNLESS YOU’RE BLEEDING: Growing Up in Cold War Washington has garnered some lovely responses, the best of which has been, “It ended too soon. Tell me more.” I intend to do that, to go back to my childhood and recount some of the crazy adventures of “the children of spies.” But first, I want the reader to see where it all began… the story of a Yankee soldier, rejected by his own army, who joins the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and meets a 16-year-old British girl in a baronial castle in Yorkshire.
So, it’s revision time. Hooray! My favorite part of writing is working with the words on the page/screen –pacing the piece which means expanding in one place and cutting in another; finding the threads I thought were obvious and tying them more tightly together for the reader; searching for the best title; rejoicing over the lovely penciled cheers in the margin where I grabbed this generous and helpful first reader. You know who you are. Thank you.