A Dream Team to focus on the story.
So, I put a beginning, middle and ending to my story, “Jaybird’s Song,” and liked it. But I found it really hard to sense whether or not my story was compelling, whether the “reveals” happened at the right times, if the storyline was predictable or just the opposite — too far fetched for a reader to guess the unfolding story to the point of frustration.
So, I put together my Dream Team: Six wonderful ladies who love to read, have tons of smarts and are fun to be around — Erin, Wendy, Melanie, Shelbe, Paige and Eleanor. I sent each of them the first 35 pages of the book with the assignment to read, and if they were up for the challenge, to join me for a 24-hour focus group at the LeMeridian Hotel on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
After the first 35 pages, all six commited to the rest. (Phew. How many books have I flung to the side because they didn’t capture me in the first few pages? I took that as a good sign.) I gave each a list of questions with a Strongly Agree/Strongly Disagree type of scale and then asked specific questions about the first section. Once satisfied, I handed out the next 85 or 90 pages and sent them poolside, or to the hotel’s fabulous lobby with wonderful little reading niches. After sunning and some lunch, we met again in the hotel’s Analysis conference room (Perfect. A triangualar table and two giant walls of windows.) at 3 p.m. where I had each rate more questions and issues and we discussed the progression of the story to that point. Two more rounds of this and we finished the novel and discussions at 7:30 or so and we walked over to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner. After that, we all retired to one of the lovely suites connected to the rooms I’d reserved and enjoyed a 4-hour chatfest with wine in our PJs.
Such fun and so helpful to me. The Dream Team validated the ‘was it compelling issue?,’ pointed out a couple of inconsistencies that I’d missed, marked some areas that needed work and confirmed that one component of the ending was just a little too far fetched and weird, and gave me lots of ideas to where I re-wrote it and am much happier.
I reviewed all of their notes and made re-writes in places throughout. Then I sent it to Wayne, my writing coach for a full read. Loved his ideas, too, and made more re-writes in more places. My sister read it last week and gave me a few spots for changes. And Tom got a personal read in audio by the author to and from our trip to Hilton Head last week. Reading it outloud pointed out still more areas I wanted to polish. Now it’s with yet another talented friend who will do a line-by-line read looking for missing words, missing quote marks, grammar issues, etc.
It’s almost ready for prime time and I’m so excited!
“Jaybird’s Song.” More to come…