For the first time yesterday, someone other than me read Chapter Seven of my travel memoir.
Well, I guess it wasn’t really the first time. Before I sent the chapter to my critique group, I had a slight panic attack, realizing I was about to make myself vulnerable by throwing my work out into the world. I felt like I was preparing to stand on my front lawn, naked, as cars drove by taking stock.
So I enlisted my mother for a confidence boost. “Will you read this?” I asked, holding out 25 pages I had worked hard to produce.
She did. And like a good mother, she said she loved it.
A few friends have read pieces of my book, too, scenes here and there. But they all know me. They followed my travel blog, so they already have a sense of the deliciousness of my adventure through Africa, which taints (or enhances, perhaps?) their experience as a reader.
So it was a big step to sit at Panera Bread with my writing group, writers I met just a few months ago, while they critiqued Chapter Seven yesterday. (They had critiqued scenes before, but never an entire chapter.) I was out there, naked. And it actually felt good, in a nerve-wracking, freeing sort-of way.
Did they like the chapter? I think so. They offered awesome feedback about building more tension in certain scenes, eliminating a few characters so others can grow and turning French translations into more fluid dialogue. Now I’ve got to incorporate that advice.
Since I’ve written several consecutive chapters — albeit in the middle of the book — this same group will vet Chapter Eight at our next meeting three weeks from now. And at the following meeting, Chapter Nine.
Not long after that, I’ll be looking for a few brave souls to read my entire manuscript before I hire a professional editor. Because by the end of August, I’m hoping to finish a draft of the book!