A Writer’s Diary of the Week…
So, firstly, I had a very good lunch (avocado salad, fish pie, pudding and far too much bubbly Prosecco) with a lovely book club made up of expatriate women living here, in Rome. They hailed from Iceland, Switzerland, Holland, South Africa, the UK, Egypt and Australia. They read the book in their December holidays, some while skiing, others on the beaches of the South, one in her car, hiding from the family duties of Christmas.
All enjoyed it, luckily, and I experienced a very hazy, surreal, out-of-body experience of eight women all talking at once about the characters in the book as though they lived and breathed. An argument over who was the most evil; a discussion as to whether a character killed herself or was murdered – it is true – I left it open, though in fact, that was no deliberate act of subterfuge. I realized, I knew what happened and that was all that mattered when I was writing it. I was humbled, blushing when they asked,
“So, Annika, do you have any questions for your readers?”
In my fog of egocentricity and gatecrasher’s nerves, it never occurred to me that they might want to be interviewed as to their opinion. I rummaged through my prosecco-addled brain, searching for a decent question. Nothing.
“Well, not really,” I blurted.
Oh, the arrogance of the debut author. I apologize; put it down to naivete.
This week, I managed to join a very useful facebook page called Book Connectors, recommended to me by Pam Reader, a prolific book blogger. Authors ask good questions and can post information about upcoming events, bloggers post reviews, and the community seems to be a friendly and helpful one, especially for British writers.
I joined an online literary critique forum. I was not expecting much to be honest, as it is free and very basic in terms of the web design (an uninspiring grey with white font), and format (‘cheap as chips’). In the absence of my fantastic Editor-on-Tap (she is fighting a valiant battle with cancer), it turned out to be surprisingly useful. ‘Credits’ are earned by critiquing other writers, which you can then ‘spend’ by uploading your own offerings. I uploaded the prologue and half the first chapter of my new novel (draft 2, at least, with much fiddling and rewording).
Then I waited, biting my nails.
The ‘critters’, as they call themselves, did not hold back:
“I don’t like starting critiques on the negative, but there’s no way to avoid this: your opening sentence is tell—tell that is flat, written in passive voice, and unimaginative.”
Oh dear. I laughed out loud, he was right. He was getting even too – I recognized his ‘name’ – I’d ‘critted’ a chapter of his book the day before, asking him to work harder on characterization. I don’t think that writers should make it their religion not to use passive to be verbs, sometimes you need to… but… I conceded the point. I got praise for my pretty use of language. Within an afternoon, I spring-cleaned the upload, replacing passive she/he had/ was into fresh, immediate dialogue. Much improved, I look forward to the critter’s responses to the next two uploads. I expect a serious dressing down, though I tried hard this time . As the author, it is hard to catch mistakes – hence the need for great editing.
Lastly, I received a review from Writerful Books, an Australian publishing house based in Melbourne. It can be found here: Writerful Books Review
I loved that the reviewer was honest enough to open the review with:
“This was a surprisingly good read.”
I don’t know what initially put him off – the pinkish lettering of the title font, perhaps? The little Tajik woman in the corner of the cover? I grinned, imagining his sighs as he opened it and settled down to read. Did he start the book in trepidation, thinking himself sentenced to review a new sub-genre of Central-Asian Chick Lit?
It was a lovely review, take a look! 🙂
All in all, a very good start to Writing in 2016.