Recently, I began a new read aloud with Lil, my youngest. The book is a MG fantasy that I am almost finished polishing. In fact, I have thought I was finished with it three other times, even begun querying and entered it in Writer’s Voice (see my first blog entry here for the opening of revision three). This time will be the last pass before starting the query process again, and her being my companion beta reader is only fitting. Prior to her prompting, the manuscript gathered dust electronically for almost six years after revision one. She is the one who, never having read it, said, “Mom, when are you going to publish that book?”
Having a beta reader who is part of my target audience is enlightening. A young beta reader can give incredibly blunt honest feedback of what doesn’t work. Her statement “that part is boring” when she first read several chapters on her own a few months ago prompted me to cut several chapters from the opening. Since our read aloud started I have made a few more modifications as we go. Some are typos that I have missed again and again in my edits which now jump out at me as I read aloud to her. Some are simple word swaps she suggested. For example, in my fairytale setting, I have a physically disabled character who refers to herself as “lame,” but Lil pointed out “crippled” is better as most kids think “lame” just means “stupid.” Another edit involved removing an unnecessary character from a scene because Lil was confused by her presence. Most of my editing has involved older beta readers and their constructive criticism, definitely invaluable, but ultimately they are not my intended audience. Lil, at almost ten, gives me that reality check of whether the novel appeals to my audience. And there is nothing more gratifying than to hear her say, “Don’t stop. Read another chapter!”
What usual methods do you use to polish a work?