23. The kindness of other writers

I still haven’t resolved the dilemma I mentioned in the last post, about whether to switch to pitching The Golden Illusion. But I’m keeping my options open by working on polishing the existing rough draft. Only four people have read it so far, and it wouldn’t be where it is without them. Showing your work at early stages to others can really help.

When I finished the first draft, I had an uncomfortable feeling that the ending didn’t work. My wife was the first to confirm that. I also tested it out as a short story on Webook, and I got the same response. I can’t tell you what didn’t work about it, or I’d give the mystery away.

Then three other writers had a go at it. I want to acknowledge how important their criticism has been. My friend Toni from my writing group gave me a great edit of the first chapters. I posted the first five chapters on Webook and got some really useful feedback. Two of my Webook community, Trina and Alina, have been real champions of the book, convincing me to carry on with it. Alina even persuaded Webook to promote the project on their Facebook page.

Trina helped me make real improvements to the first chapter. The first draft started rather tamely with the main character, a conjurer, performing a card trick. With Trina’s input, I changed this. It now opens like this:

“The man raised the revolver, pointing it straight at my head. His arm didn’t waver. His finger tightened on the trigger.

I stared at him, unblinking, through the sheet of glass that separated us. There was a moment of utter silence.

As he pulled the trigger, I opened my mouth, and then all was noise. The gunshot cracked, echoing round the auditorium, with the tinkling cascade of breaking glass as the plate smashed.

I staggered, my neck snapping backwards. Then I drew myself upright, my lips curled in a triumphant smile that framed the bullet clamped between my teeth.”

Much punchier.

Alina went above and beyond the call of duty. She helped me identify what was weak about the ending. The antagonist wasn’t villainous enough, the final revelation wasn’t believable, and it lacked a concluding chapter. I’m very prone to the bad habit of failing to write the last chapter, and stopping too abruptly. I rewrote the last two chapters, and added a final chapter. And she not only told me the change worked, but spend two days closely editing them.

Alina is Alina Voyce, the author of the Lifelights series, beautifully written sci-fi romance. And I say that as someone who doesn’t even like romance. You can find out about Lifelights on her website http://www.alinavoyce.com/the-series.html.


Thanks so much to all four of you.

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