After six drafts of this book as a novel and two drafts as a memoir, I think I'm really, finally, getting somewhere. This week I've had feedback from two readers who I know will tell me exactly what they think. And they have. I've had comments like 'clunky', 'not good enough', 'YUCK', and even 'Please see me!' with an arrow that led to a long diatribe on the back of the page ending '...you're going to have to rewrite that scene.'
Eight drafts in, I'm entirely used to comments like this - in fact, I welcome them, because I need to know where I'm going wrong. There's no point having critters who don't crit. The thing is, though, in this draft, there aren't actually that many comments. And most of the critical ones are easily fixed. Plus, in places, there were chunks of several pages with no comments at all. And my readers also made rather a lot of lovely comments. One was a first-time reader, because I wanted some fresh eyes on my work. She laughed out loud in places, welled up in others and, once, was moved to tears. I couldn't ask for more.
The book still needs some structural and thematic work, but not a huge amount. My 'to do' list isn't very long. Which feels odd. I know there's still work to do, and it's important that I do it as well as I can, but you know what? I think most of the work, taken overall, is done. I remember this feeling from my PhD days: there was a point, two or three months before I submitted my thesis, when I realised I was over the hump, that it was, in a sense, all downhill from now on.
I do so hope that, when this book is finally as good as I can make it, I can get the damn thing published!!!