I should have known it was mistake.
Being married to a man with an aversion to history, and no historical sense at all, is not perhaps ideal for a writer of historical novels. What’s more, I never, ever, let anyone see anything I’ve written until I feel it’s about ready to go public— ie to be sent off to the publisher, or (these days) launched through Createspace/Kindle.
So what possessed me to print off the first chapter of the rough draft of my latest novel and ask my husband for his opinion on it? After all, the rough draft had been dashed off any-old-how, 1000 words or more a day, just as it came, in a jumble of words. It really is what it says— rough.
I’d printed it out, read it through, covered the print-out with marginal comments and queries, done a lot of background reading to clarify historical details, and heard it read aloud by the device I’ve just discovered in my Scrivener software that does that job for you (in a rather robotic American voice, but it saves me using my voice). I was ready to begin serious work, revising, editing, shaping the rough draft into a novel.
But that crucial first chapter was just a muddle, a tangle of different things that really didn’t work together, veering off in several different directions at once. It clearly wasn’t going to entice anyone to read further. The only trouble was, I couldn’t see how to begin to put it right.
So I did that very foolish thing, printed it off again (without marginal marks) and gave it to my husband to read.
And of course he hated it. ‘It’s well-written, but…’ was how he began, trying to soften the blow. After that came the long list of things wrong with it, many of them points I hadn’t even considered.
I felt cross, argumentative, and— for several hours afterwards— ready to give up altogether.
Then came a new day, a couple of solitary rain-soaked walks, a lot of thought, and gradually the tangles began to loosen. I saw what was wrong much more clearly than before and began to feel my way towards putting it right. I didn’t agree with all my husband’s criticisms, but he had at least prodded me into looking more objectively at what I’d written.
Would I do that again, and show him anything at the rough draft stage? Probably not. But I rather hope that the final version of this first chapter will make even my history-averse husband want to read on.