I came back from Devon last Friday to find a critique and annotated copy of my MS from the lovely Debi Alper. Debi gave me some welcome praise: welcome not because I was looking for an ego massage, but because it was praise I felt I had earned and that helped my confidence in some useful ways. She also offered plenty of thoughtful criticism, which was every bit as welcome, particularly as it came with suggestions about how to address the problems she had identified. I knew immediately that I could use her input to improve my work. And she said she thought it would ultimately result in a novel of publishable quality.
However, her main concern was that the identity of the book wasn't clear; I didn't always focus on the central area of the narrative; I was holding back in some way. This was depressing because I knew she was right. I knew what I could do about it, too - but thinking about my proposed solution made my palms break out in hives, caused nightmares and insomnia, and left my head feeling like a plastic water bottle in a descending aeroplane.
Luckily I had another reader, my beloved father, a fine wordsmith and discerning critic. Maybe he would say something different, something that could take me in another direction. I got his feedback on Tuesday. It was different - in a few details. Mostly he said the same things as Debi, particularly about identity and focus.
Damn and blast.
Perhaps I was missing something. I talked it all through with my sister, who is also my best friend, and very good at spotting things I don't see. She's read part of an earlier draft, so she knows the turf. I told her about my proposed solution.
'Brilliant idea,' she said.
I decided to tell my dad next. He has an excellent bullshit detector. Surely he'd talk me out of it.
'Great plan,' he said.
Debi was my last hope. I worded my email carefully and checked for a reply every minute on the minute, willing her to come up with a reason why I should carry on as before. Finally, after, ooh, a whole couple of hours, her name popped up in my inbox.
'My feeling is that this is the right track,' she said.
Oh dear, oh no, oh help! My bluff has been well and truly called.
To be continued...