Hello again bloggers, writers, friends and weirdo’s.
As usual it’s been a while since my last post, but I guess the old adage is that ‘if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all’. I’ll never be a constant blogger, that I can say for absolute certain because 1) time restrictions mean I’m limited in how much I can blog and 2) I’ll never blog for blogging’s sake.
If anything, recently I have felt subdued into silence (which my husband would probably say is a good thing) but that’s not unusual when writer’s block hits or when life in general seems slightly more exhausting than usual, and during those times it’s usually better to focus on other things until I regain my voice.
But there’s no doubt that on this occasion, the whole editing thing is the dastardly perpetrator. As you know, from my last post, I decided to edit Dark Sanctuary again having realised I had made some hideous grammatical errors and now I am thrown back into the book I wrote over a year ago and seeing it with very different eyes.
Dark Sanctuary has been read by various different people and I have received lots of varying feedback, all pretty positive and all criticism has been constructive – at least none so bad that it’s made me want to slam the laptop on my own head. But one comment has stuck in my head and I’ll know he’ll hate me for saying this as I’m sure he thinks I’m highly offended by it (which is completely not true) however my older brother said he struggled with the first one hundred pages. He said he wanted for the story to just ‘get going’ and although he got many of the references I made to people and places from our childhood, the first few chapters did challenge his will to stick at it.
Now, admittedly no one else has made that comment (sorry again bro) but as a writer, I do feel it’s my obligation to consider why he felt like that. The first few chapters have to grip the reader, otherwise you risk them putting the book down and wandering off to wash their hair/cut their toenails/scrub the kitchen floor/all of the above and that’s the last thing you want to happen. You don’t want them to put the book down. You want them to not want to put the book down.
So what was it about those first chapters that caused the problem and could I, as the author, spot where I was causing the reader to lose interest?
Well, I can only offer my opinion at this stage as I have yet to discuss with my brother, but whilst I think many things that I write about in those first few chapters have to happen – incidents and relationships that are crucial to character development and to plot – I can see that there is an element to my writing that almost hits a younger reader at that point. The writing seems to change and it’s difficult for me to explain how it does that, but the part of the chapter that sticks out like a sore thumb for me is the one that leads up to Sarah’s unfortunate meeting with Bourne, the horse-killing vamp with the bad dress sense and the even worse buzz-cut.
Sarah’s run-in with Bourne is crucial to the plot as of course he is the one that kick starts her life of running away from the nightmares that have come to haunt her and I think in some way, I fail in the build up to that. The chase is a terrifying one and the fear that she feels as a result of that is incredibly important as from then onwards we see a more wary, frightened Sarah who has started to realise that she is never going to lead a normal life. It’s not just about what it does to her life, but also what it does to her mind, which culminates in her mental deterioration when she is holed up in her little grey cottage hideaway.
There is something almost child-like in the way I write that chapter, which some may say is unavoidable as I am talking about an incident that happens to her as a child but I know in my heart I need to go back and re-write it. It might be a chapter about a point in her childhood, but there is something too simplistic and certain paragraphs seem disjointed and irrelevant.
On re-reading through the whole manuscript, I can now see quite clearly where the book really gets going; where it really begins to grip the reader and make them beg for more.
Whilst I despise editing with a passion, I have to say that I am glad my school-girl grammatical failures prompted me to dive back and re-look at it with fresh eyes. And for that too, I have to thank my brother, because whilst he was concerned he had offended me in his honest opinion, I am nothing without the honest feedback people give me and can never hope to improve my writing without it.
So writers, I guess the moral of the story is….listen to your readers, because sometimes their voice is the one that hear.