Now that I’ve finished my new book, The Queen of Kansas, of course I’m relieved and pleased to have gotten this far. The problem is I’m in what for me is the toughest phase of the whole enterprise. That is, waiting for a small group of family and friends to finish reading the draft and providing me their feedback.
For the past couple of years, The Queen has been restricted to my head and in my DropBox. While that’s OK, it definitely wasn’t the point of working this hard. Obviously, writing is a form of communication but unless you find mumbling to yourself enormously satisfying, an important aspect of written communication involves other folks reading it.
To help my pre-publication readers know what kind of feedback would be most helpful, I developed a set of questions including:
- Is the book a “good read?”
- Are the characters interesting/compelling enough to want to spend time with them?
- Does the story pull you along?
- Is the narrator’s voice credible?
- Do you care what happens to the characters?
- Are the settings sufficiently realistic/detailed that you can visualize them?
- Did you get bogged down? Bored? Confused? If so, where?
While I wait for feedback, my imagination freely and happily ranges over a landscape dotted with negative comments. Of course I know that doesn’t make much sense, so to distract myself I’m working on the outline of a new book. Does that help keep my negativity in check?
One of the challenges of writing or speaking is to know when enough’s been said and it’s time to stop. I wish there was a test to make clear when I’d finished. If such exists, I haven’t found it.
Because I’ve recently completed a draft of a new book, endings are very much on my mind. The book has the working title, The Queen of Kansas. It’s a fictional memoir set between the years 1936 and 1948, I’d outlined the entire book in advance of sitting down to write so I had a reasonably clear idea how it would be structured and what would constitute the components of its beginning, its middle and its end.
I’m working with specific time parameters and am basing the book on lives of real persons, so I did know, at least in a temporal sense, approximately when the book would end. I was less sure of the right emotional note on which to conclude the story.
My first attempt at an ending felt as if I’d found a good parking spot, parked, but when I turned off the engine, my car wouldn’t quit running. Actually, I’m not sure cars still do that but I like the metaphor. When I’m on a roll and words keep coming, it’s not obvious to me I’ve said too much. In this case, it took reading the draft of my book aloud to Luisa for me to hear that my engine was “running on” and the real ending should have been several pages back.
The “ending” metaphor I like best is sticking an ending the way gymnasts “stick” a dismount. No hops or lunges. Just two feet hitting the ground at exactly the same time and staying put.