I took numerous creative writing classes in college. While there were definitely some strange parts, the upside was having a class full of people who were required to read and comment on your work. At some point, you’ve made the improvements that come readily to mind on your own manuscripts. You need feedback from readers to improve them more.
In software, people call a crucial stage in the improvement process “beta testing” — releasing an early, likely flawed, version of a product to a small number of people who play with it and offer feedback on what would make for a better user experience.
I figure you can do the same with fiction, too, so I’m looking to beta-test a novel. Its working title is “The Cortlandt Boys,” and it’s about a small town high school basketball team that wins the state championship on a last second 3-point shot. The story revisits the characters 10 and 20 years later, as their lives play out against the backdrop of this unlikely victory, and as a mystery from around the time of the championship has ramifications for their lives and the town decades hence. I’m a woman of varied interests, and so this novel has sports writing, scrapbooking, a religious camp for teens, some doomed if passionate relationships, and lots of description of the characters and landscape of this PA town at the edge of the Poconos.
The novel took me a long time to pull together. I wrote a draft of half of it years ago, thinking it was the full story. I later realized I was only telling part of it. This version is much more developed — and I like it more, too.
If you’re interested in giving it a read, please send me a note (lvanderkam at yahoo dot com). Ideally, beta-testers read a fair amount of contemporary fiction, and would commit to giving constructive feedback. “I love it” and “I hate it” are equally non-useful (though, of course, I like hearing one more than the other…) I’m looking for examples of where your attention wanders, scenes that could use more development, or could be cut, characters you want to learn more about, and suggestions for ways to improve parts that aren’t working as well as they could. I freely admit that such sections exist! I’m hoping multiple heads can solve that problem together. Ideally, people would have time to read the manuscript in the next few weeks. It’s a bit north of 80,000 words, which is a fairly typical novel length. This is not War and Peace.
Photo of my bookshelves/library.