I finally plucked up courage to email my prologue and first three chapters over to my good friend C to get some feedback. This was the first time anyone had seen the new, revised, all-singing-and-dancing version, and I had to resist the temptation to call her every ten minutes to ask if she had read it yet. Oh the agony of not being able to pester!
There is nothing more interesting to me than someone else’s interpretation of my words. I want them to draw my characters – will they see them as I see them? Does our landscape match? Did I paint a good enough picture for everyone? I don’t expect perfect duplications, but I am curious how much readers will add and subtract for themselves. It’s an endless fascination, and I guess it comes most to the fore when books are translated to TV or film – did they cast the characters right? When it works it bloody works well, when it doesn’t – eek.
Friend C really liked it, which is great as she’s a lady that knows her own mind and wouldn’t shy of telling me if I was wasting my life, in the nicest possible sense. However, she did make a very interesting and valid point about my main character, an elderly female. I wanted her to sound like an ill-tempered old lady, at least in the beginning, and fab – that is exactly how she comes across. What I didn’t think about was why readers would wish to read on about an ill-tempered nasty old bat. She doesn’t actually stay that way, and a lot happens, but it is a very good point. It’s easily rectified – I can keep her acerbity yet allow a certain amount of compassion in how I portray her, which would actually improve matters anyway. It just means I still haven’t finished fiddling with chapters one to three! So this week it will be back to poking at those chapters with a long stick.
It just goes to show how important it is to get feedback from people you trust. I am the person standing inside as my novel plays on in 3D all around me - people reading it are coming from the outside in, and as such approach from a different vantage point. It is the sort of thing a good editor would spot, to be honest, but until those heady days, I'll surround myself with trustworthy souls, and a novel-poking stick.