Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Professional Reader

Four weeks left. I'm smoldering in Southern Dog Day heat and working like a woman gone mad. But the feeling of euphoria floods in from time-to-time, I'm almost there. Almost to the end. Mixed with a certain amount of panic, I carefully plan my days. There's still a good amount left to do and I've enlisted my best friend, Tina, as my final reader. She is, by far, one of the most read women I know. I would consider her a "professional reader."

We writers are supposed to be voracious in our reading. And though we do read more than the average American, we have to spend a great deal of time in research and in ... writing. And then there's editing, and marketing. The days and weeks all of this consumes can be mind boggling. I've mentioned before that I keep a book or stack of books by the toilet. Hey, reading time is reading time and I find it where I can. Usually, I fall asleep every night with my current book of choice. So, the point is that as much as I love books, I cannot devote the time to reading like a "professional reader" can. And believe me, they're out there.

Tina has literally read thousands of books. Her life is books. She is, no doubt, a writer and publisher's best friend. Her choice in fiction ranges from Sci Fi to Mystery to Mainstream and Literary. Her library is immense. And along with her voracious reading skill comes the knowledge of what moves a story forward, what to take out and what to leave in. What to condense and what doesn't ring true. Overwriting and underwriting. In a nutshell, she knows what will sell and what won't.

Tina used to force herself to finish a book, but not anymore. If within the first few pages a book doesn't grab her and hold her, it's tossed. My friend also makes time to read. It's a part of her life as much as anything she does. She's had a few surgeries in the past year, so reading is a great way to take up recovery time. She also heads a book club for a large group in Ohio. But Tina was my friend long before my career as a writer took off. Our history together goes way back.

Right now, she's going through a lot of anguish. My book evokes many raw and real emotions for her. Televenge, as many of you know, is based on true events. Tina was part of those events and this book is as important to her as it is to me. Getting it right, creating the moment, perfecting the fiction, heightening the suspense that both of us desire to see in our readers, it's crucial to not only the success of the book, but it must ring true in our hearts, as well.

To those of us who do not know about religious cults, are not intimate with ministry, I believe it'll be a great story, one for memory books. It'll stir plenty of controversy and cause a few meltdowns. But this story will hit close to home for many. It's definitely familiar to some. To the thousands throughout the country who have lived within the walls of a cult, it will rip emotions through them like paper through a shredder. Tina is experiencing that right now as she is helps me perfect the fine details in this book. A natural response.

Her final thoughts are the missing link and though she's wiped out emotionally, it's the piece that will complete this massive jigsaw puzzle. The piece that fell off the table when I opened the box. The piece that hid under the rug and I had to empty the room to find. I'm grateful for it.

Of course, in the end, I have to weigh it all out once again. Ponder and make those crucial determinations of what to cut and what to sharpen. A book like this, I've been told, is usually written by the "more seasoned" or "veteran" author. Well, that's just about sums it up. I jumped into an ocean and thought it was a backyard pool. We'll see how well I tread water in just a few weeks. I just know I'm also grateful for my "professional reader." Every writer needs one.

Say a prayer.

Blessings to you and yours.

No comments: