Whiskey & Charlie: Journey to a Book (Part 2)

At a certain point in the writing of a novel, the time comes to show the work to someone else. It’s a frightening phase characterised by wild mood swings encompassing both paranoid delusions – They’re going to tell me it’s a masterpiece! – and paralysing self-doubt – It’s worthless! But they’ll be too scared to tell me!

My Writing Trio

Blogger Karenlee Thompson wrote a post about the benefits of being in a writers group which I wholeheartedly agree with. While writing Whisky & Charlie (published in Australia as Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) I had the good fortune to be a member of a writing trio which also included Amanda Curtin and Robyn Mundy. Amanda and Robyn were each working on their debut novels at that time and we met every month or so to critique each other’s work. Being critiqued as I wrote was like having a compass – I might stray off course occasionally but I could find my way back before I’d gone too far.

My first novel contained almost no dialogue, and I was a little frightened of writing it. In early scenes from Whisky & Charlie Amanda and Robyn both commented that it was when my characters started talking that the scenes really came alive. Their encouragement led to the novel becoming more dialogue and relationship-driven, which in turn allowed humour to emerge, despite the somewhat dark subject matter.

Beta Readers

When I had a draft ready, I sent it out to a group of six beta readers, of both sexes, and ranging in age from 35 to 65. While it’s tempting to share your book with the kind of friend who will tell you how wonderful it is, it’s ultimately more helpful to have people who’ll tell you what doesn’t work, and even more helpfully, why. And this they did. My long-term mentor Richard Rossiter told me that my central character was a ‘dickhead’. Ouch! On the other hand, three of my readers told me that they ‘loved’ the character of Rosa. (You win some, you lose some). Katie told me that Whisky wouldn’t drink a soy latte. Lucinda told me that she feigned sickness because she couldn’t wait til the end of the working day to finish the book.

Part of me cursed them for giving me feedback which entailed the indignity of…rewriting! And part of me is eternally grateful to them for helping to make my book much, much better.

Tune in next week to find out about the psychosis-inducing phase of finding a publisher.

You might also like: Journey to a Book (I) – Write the damn book!

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