A friend who writes, also reads. She, like I, has been an expatriate for many years, moving from country to country, crisscrossing the continents of Africa and Asia as a way of life. We both have a rich store of memories that we use to glean stories, refusing to settle into the norm or restrict ourselves to writing about our countries of origin. We prefer to relive our experiences, both the good and the bad, blending them into the stories of others, both real and imagined.
Story telling is a wonderful way to archive our lives, writing the stories of ourselves and of
others as we imagine them to be, but at times it feels like hard toil, especially towards completion, when the draft is rewritten a multitude of times, checking language, continuity, characterization and plot tension; all the threads that run through a good novel, knotting the detail in upon those threads like a carpet maker. The end result; a strong, beautiful book.
This friend, the writer, wrote today with comments on a chapter of my new novel, ‘The Girl with the White Suitcase’. Set in Rwanda, Kenya and Italy, it is a coming of age story about an intelligent, young refugee with a multi-ethnic background who cannot choose sides in a war. It is an ambitious novel that seeks to ask questions about the nature of identity in conflict, inter-racial love, forgiveness, tolerance and female friendship.
With fresh eyes, she can see the things I can no longer see, the little mistakes. She gives me new ideas and demands that I check and recheck the language, continuity and suspense. It is that very suspense that keeps the reader beheld, the tension holding the pages tight in the reader’s hand. Without it, the book will fail.
The importance of fresh eyes cannot be overstated, and this is a shout out to thank all the beta-readers out there, helping writers to be the best they can be. THANKS!