"The book is good. Very good."
With those words Lynne Scanlon, The Publishing Contrarian kind of made my day. Hell, my week, my month, my year, my life.
In an extraordinary act of generosity Lynne, a former publishing executive, has been reading A Half Life of One and analysing and commenting on the book in extraordinary detail. In recent weeks I've been bombarded with comments and e-mails from her.
Lynne is extremely perceptive. There are a lot of small factual mistakes in the book and I doubt if Lynne has missed any of them. One of the problems of writing and re-writing a book over an extended period (ten years or so) is that things change. When I wrote the first draft the price of oil was ten dollars a barrel and the experts were predicting it would fall to five. Now it's at seventy and those same experts say it'll go to a hundred. I took this into account in the last re-write and changed the opening scenario. Then the law of unintended consequences kicked in and I had to change lots of other things as a result. And that kicked off more consequences. So it goes. I'll fix the mistakes though, thanks to Lynne.
From a somewhat loftier perspective Lynne pointed out that there were some basic inconsistencies in the way the main character behaved, the way his personality developed. In her opinionion the book is fundamentally flawed. She's right. I hadn't realised this before, I needed another pair of eyes to point this out to me. Thankfully it's fixable. I'll fix it.
After every chapter Lynne has described her emotional reactions in vivid detail. That has given me an invaluable insight into what works in the book and what doesn't. It's also made me really think about what I'm trying to achieve in the book. Thanks to Lynne I've now got a clear idea of what the book is really about.
As you'll know if you visit her blog Lynne has extraordinary energy and vision. She ruffles feathers. She tells it like it is. Best of all she knows what she's talking about. She's not arrogant though, and she took the precaution of asking a writing friend of hers to read the book also, to give her a second opinion. When they'd finished reading they compared notes. The conclusions were pretty much the same. So thanks, Bridget. You're a star.
Where does that leave me? Another re-write is needed. Actually, I've already started. The other night I re-wrote that first chapter. I have to admit that when I finished I cried. It's beautiful. Thanks to all the help I've had it's the best prose I've ever written. I can't wait to finish the whole thing. It's going to be the best thing I've ever done in my life. I feel so happy it's unbelievable. This is why I do it. I'd forgotten. All those years of failure had clouded my inner vision.
I've had help from a lot of people with this book. Agents, readers, bloggers, strangers. Thank you all. You're amazing. Truly amazing.
Do me a favour though. Don't go read the book just yet. Give me a couple of weeks to finish the revisions. Then you can go there.
I'll be waiting for you with a big grin on my face.