...received some interesting advice from my "reader" who's involvement has sparked a fourth...kind of mini-edit on "South of Charm."
A former editor, now more or less a hired hit-man for those of us clawing our way toward some shelf space at Barnes & Noble, she finished up my novel a week ago, assembled her thoughts, and suggested to David that I should perhaps, "Dumb it down" a bit.
My response was, "Huh?"
David managed to clarify. "In a nutshell, she thinks maybe you're writing gets too cute in a few scenes. Don't huff. Overall she enjoyed it, but you know how it is...every critique has to come back with something, thus earning them their blue chip."
"So...she's wanting me to cut out some of the more colorful phrases, and replace them with, what...newspaper print?" I asked.
This sparked a grin. "Not quite that extreme, El. Her take was, during a few of the more intense moments of the story, your prose blossomed a bit too much, causing her to go back and re-read the scene, making sure she fully understood what was going on. She fears some readers may put the book down if they find themselves in the same position."
"I'm assuming you've read Wroblewski's "Sawtelle," or Susanna Clark's "Norrell," right?" I asked.
"Okay then, how many times did you have to go back and re-read that craziness?"
"More than I'm willing to admit."
"How about 'Tinkers?' That one won the Pulitzer, you know."
"Don't remind me."
"And those books are considered some of the best work over the past decade. So what gives?"
David expelled a breath, his patience creating the type of silence only a newborn would feel comfortable in. Then, "Who's your main character in 'Charm?'
"The Kaufman kid."
"And how old is he?"
Then I got it. "Wait. Okay. I see what you're getting at."
David's smile returned. "Sometimes you writers like to show off, wanting us readers to shake our heads in awe...which is fun. But sometimes, depending on the scene, and the character in question, thinning out some spice can make all the difference."
"Okay. I'm not on my deathbed," I said. "There's time. Send me another copy and your ideas, and I'll see what I can do."
Revision number 4. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" went through 15 rounds of revisions before getting shoved into the press. "South of Charm" is based on the troubled life of a ten year old boy with a special gift, but a family secret...more or less a curse as he sees it. And that's the key. As he sees it. Through his eyes, not mine. A ten year old boy...
"Dumb it Down." I've got two weeks and she wants to read it again.
Okay Kaufman, tell me what you see...