Focus Group(ish)

It has been a few weeks since I finished the first draft of my second novel. Honestly, after I finished, I kind of deflated a bit. I wanted to keep going, keep up the momentum, but I really needed to take a step back. After I sent it off to beta readers, I also had a big move to a temporary summer office, and the stress of figuring out a summer schedule and stalking calling to convince parents to bring their children in throughout the summer. Also, paperwork. Mountains of it. Hours of extra work. My brain has been pretty much wrung dry by the time I get home, and most evenings that I am actually home are spent staring at the computer screen as I play game after game of Mah-jong. And think.

I think about what I wrote, if it makes sense, how it can be made better. I think about what project I want to work on next, if it’s presumptuous to work on a sequel to the one I just finished, or if I should be focusing on something else for a while. I think about what it would be like to be married to Chris Pine. All sorts of things.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a 12 year old who was one of the first to finish my book. Since I’m writing for 12-17ish year olds (and those 12-17 year olds at heart, like myself), I was super excited to talk with her. Plus, this girl is like the little sister I never had, and one of my favorite book buddies. She has very strong opinions. We talked for three hours. Not completely about my book, but a lot of the time was spent on that topic. She had really great things to say, and I’m not kidding when I say this girl is hard to please. She is very honest too. The Hunger Games is her favorite series, and she said it wasn’t as good as that. Honestly, that’s a good thing, because if she had said it was, then I would have worried that she wasn’t being honest with me!

I have complained before about how I am horrible at endings, and that was her one main problem with the book. Her exact words (regarding the ending) were, “It’s not terrible. I’ve read worse.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, though I joked that would be the quote I use on the cover of the book. She had really insightful things to say about why the ending wasn’t quite “long-dramatic-sigh” worthy. She is someone who memorizes first and last lines of books and quoted me several of her favorites.

So I went home and stacked a small portion of my YA book collection together and read the last several paragraphs of each book, comparing them and the way I felt about the ending. I don’t think I’m quite an ending connoisseur like my young friend, but I sat down and rewrote/added to the ending. And she loved it! “It was definitely long-dramatic-sigh worthy,” was her actual response. Of course, she still had more thoughts, which I love. I am seeing her again tonight, so we’ll see what she comes up with!

I am really looking forward to hearing from more of my beta readers. I am also going to work on finding a writing group in the area. I think having more eyes on it, especially those who can look at it critically, will be extremely important. Until then…I have decided to work on the sequel. If the first one never gets published, I still need to finish out the series for myself, and for the few readers that are already asking what happens next. Maybe I can finish book two before the snow flies again! Here’s hoping…

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