Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

WHEN CHILDREN EDIT

on 17/03/2015

Amazing things can happen when you let your children into your (writer’s) world!

Some 4-5 years ago I accidentally wrote a fantasy novel. Accidentally, because it actually started as just a short story for my then 9-year-old son who was (and is) a fan of dragons. It did take on a life of its own and turned into a novel, which I even tried to get published traditionally, and nearly even did. Amazingly enough, every time I got a no-thank–you email, it didn’t actually crush my heart. Honestly, it didn’t. Because every time I re-read parts of it, I myself felt it could and should be done so much better. I like the story and the characters, but I can now recognize that back then I told more than I showed. I think it’s because I was simply trying too hard to fit a form and word count, instead of letting myself write the story the way I sensed, saw and even smelled it.

I have decided to do something which will either make or break the novel.

I am taking the risk of reading it aloud to my son, who is now a blossoming teenager and manages English as a second language quite well (says the proud mummy with a gleam in her eyes). I have discovered that reading out loud is one of the best editing techniques there is anyway. However, reading it out loud to my son, who is just at that age when emotion is boundless but the blade of critical thinking is sharpened – this should prove to be phenomenal; perhaps painful, but effective.

Two days and four chapters later, I am fully pleased with my decision. These past years have taught me a thing or two about writing, so my notes on the margins are tough, but my son’s keen eye and comments have already made me ‘kill my darlings’ (to paraphrase the great S. King), without a sinch of grief. They simply made no sense or didn’t fit the atmosphere,  or took the reader out of the story. He laughed in all the proper places and yawned in places which I found boring to read out loud. All of his suggestions are useful, even though he is still going easy on me, trying not to hurt my feelings. But, upon my word, his help is simply precious!

If you are a writer or a parent who simply has a project worth sharing with your kids, do so by all means. I am both proud and humbled by this experience. I hope we manage to keep this up, because it seems like the beginning of a wonderful friendship, to use the old cliché!

As a parent, these moments will definitely help me balance the annoying days, when it takes five mentions of ‘make-your-bed’ or ‘get-off-the-phone’ to finally get it done, with these fulfilling days, when there is a wonderful feeling of mutual understanding, collaboration and respect. Fingers and toes crossed my new beta-reader doesn’t quit on me;)!

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