What I learned today

I need a critique group. I need the imposed discipline. I need the conversation. I need the support. But mostly, I need the brutal truth about my writing. I don’t want, “oh that’s really good.” Or, “I like this.” What I want is––”no, you used that same word five times on the same page,” or, “collapse this part it’s definitely too much information.”

I’m lucky, I get it all from my critique group. But today, it was less about the writing and more about where I was going with the writing. What was I trying to get to. I’m writing a non-fiction. I’ve been toying with ‘is it a biography or is it just about a historical time period?’  I’ve worried that the subject matter is not easily translated into kids-speak. And, what is less history and more my life, I am concerned that the stuff that I think is important maybe isn’t.

So, I’ve been reading a lot of NF and trying to work out what makes a good NF tick. I don’t want a straight time line, you know, born, schooled, lived, died type of story. I’m not working for the kind of book a kid picks up and reads because of a book report. And, I don’t want it to be so full of fundamental facts that a kid will start to read and his/her eyes will glaze over. Oh, my! No! I want a book a kid will pick up and say, “Hey, this is cool!”

The problem is always, where do you start? At the beginning, and if so, which beginning, whose beginning. I’ve tried starting at the very beginning, but if you don’t know the historical figure, then WHOMP, who cares where he’s been born and lived, even if castles are involved. If you start in the middle, where he stepped onto the national and international stage, well, again, who cares. He’s just some dude who was important in the last century. So last century! It you start where he’s made a huge impact on the world––well then, why isn’t he remembered already?

So I was going for the mystery and trying to articulate what that meant to me, the whole raison d’être  of writing this book. And there is was. And one of my critique partners said it out loud.

 Yes. Yes, indeed. It is certainly, most absolutely about the WHY.

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