The other night Max, aged 10, said he’d like to read my book. Bookfinders is a Middle Grade fantasy/adventure novel. I’ve completed a first draft, read it and re-written. I’ve re-written the ending, caught most of the times where I spelled my made-up place names differently, tried to make the plot forward-moving and tweaked my characters so that they are, (hopefully) engaging, complex people with lots of obstacles in the way to getting what they want. In other words, I’ve worked hard on it. And so I’m hopeful that it’s a good read, but I won’t really know until others read it. Oh, the nerves!
Max began reading it in his bed on my kindle while I sat across the hall with Maddie, aged seven, reading her The Velveteen Rabbit. I found my old copy at my Mum and Dad’s house last week. It has a bookplate with my six or seven year old handwriting giving my name, address and class, 2M. I remember finding that story so emotional and it seemed like a great distraction from wondering how Bookfinders was going down with my critic across the hallway. There was just me, Maddie and the rabbit story.
And then a cheery voice called out:
“Mum. I’ve found a mistake!”
This has made me think about what an important part of the process this is. The ability to receive criticism – to pack away the desire to just be told that the work is wonderful and instead to be able to listen to and properly absorb the thoughts and responses of others – might well make the difference between a story finding an audience instead of ending up at the bottom of a drawer. This process isn’t (I am telling myself this very sternly) about whether or not my friends and family love or hate my book. It’s about what they can tell me about it as readers so that I can make it something really worth reading and publishing.
For the record Max read chapter one. On the upside, he said he liked it. He asked some questions about what happens to one of the characters which was good. The mistake was that I haven’t indented the first line of chapter two. Recently Max lost a point on a current events report for not indenting one of his paragraphs. Lesson learned, I guess. On the down-side, I was kind of hoping he would also read chapter two, but he went back to Big Nate. Watch this space.