Friday, March 21, 2008

A reader

I'm printing out part of a chapter and sharing it with a reader. This is impulsive and not strategic. It's not a reader who can help me get it done--in fact probably the opposite, since they are close to the story. It's not a chapter that is ripe for attention. It was simply an offer to show this particular section since something in a conversation with this person reminded me of the chapter. I thought they would be interested to see how I shaped the real (shared) experience into fiction.

So I'm going against every bit of advice writers get about when and how and with whom to share their drafts.

But there's still something powerfully clarifying about it. In getting the chapter ready--a quick read-through to cut out anything that would just be confusing at this point--I'm forced to see it through this other person's eyes. It's not the ideal other person, but still another person. And seeing the chapter that way is disruptive and illuminating.

I think I've talked in other posts about the old saw that you should write with a particular reader in mind. e.g. Picture a person and write as if you were telling the story to them. In my case, that didn't seem necessary or even possible in the first draft, but I can see how it's helpful at certain points later in the process. So far, during the rewrite I haven't done that. But this errand of getting one chapter ready to share with this one reader reminds me of the power of writing to one reader. The next time through the book (the revision of the rewerite??), I think I will use that strategy. I'll be thinking about who my ideal audience or reader is, I'll boil it down to one person, I'll get a commitment from that person to read the work, and I'll revise the book with them in mind.

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