Project X: The Dinner

There’s lots about Writing that they don’t tell you. Actually writing is a craft–a mix of creativity and just sitting your ass down every day to do the work–and you can learn it and become better at it. It’s often hard, but you can look back and say “Okay, I was there in my skills and now I am here.” And you can find plenty of advice for how to do that and become better at it. Hell, you can go to school for it.

But there are two realms associated with writing in a larger sense that you are kind of stuck working out for yourself. The first is how and where to sell shit. This is when knowing other authors who work in your genre is critical, because you know some stuff and they know some stuff and you can pool experiences. And someone can read your story and say “Well, damn, you should send this to [x]” and you may never have heard of [x] but then you spend an afternoon reading the magazine and, yep, wow, you’d love to be published by them. Or someone may say “I think you have to send it to [y] because who else is publishing things that long and experimental?” Even when you’re sure there’s no fucking way [y] is ever going to publish you.

The other is not just who to ask to beta read but when. This is something I’m still feeling out. But I had a group of readers look at Project X back in January and, wow, I got good, helpful insights from them and we fixed some problems, especially a voice problem the last two stories had. Then the head of the project read it and we added a romantic bit and reworked the ending some. And it felt “done.” Pretty much.

So, I asked K. to look at it. Then I had her and C. over for dinner last night to talk about what she was thinking about the project. And not only was it amazing–she hit on something with one of my stories that I kind of felt was a problem (and other readers had indicated was a problem) but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and she had this fabulously simple idea (I mean simple in the sense of being straight-forward, non-convoluted, and works in the space without a lot of rejiggering) that I just wouldn’t have come up with. Obviously. Or I would have.

And it made me realize that this process of who reads it when is also kind of a crap-shoot of lucky fortuity. How do you get people to read it in the right order so that you can build on their suggestions? I think one thing I’m starting to figure out is that you don’t need, say, six people to read the same draft. What you need are two people to read what you think is going to be a final revision and then two people to read the next thing you think is going to be a final revision and so on. You don’t want all your beta readers to be reading the same draft, though you want to send them something as final as you know how to make it.

Anyway, for dinner, I served roasted grapes as an appetizer, my favorite brussel sprout dish (once again, thanks for that), and my apple pie. It went swimmingly. They seemed to love everything, not only in words, but in eating it! So, maybe I need to start playing host more often.

And by more often I mean at all. Other than my family, I can’t remember the last people I cooked for.