I was on pins and needles all last week as Vanessa read through my manuscript. I kept waiting for a reaction, an opinion, a thought, but I got nothing. With the exception of one email in which Vanessa said she was on page 60 and enjoying it, she gave me no hints as to whether she thought the book was trash or treasure—or something in between. This, even when I saw her in person last week, and she mentioned she had less than 20 pages left to read.
Last Wednesday, Vanessa fired me an email to tell me she had finished reading, and I sent her a series of probing questions. I impressed on her that her most important job as my intern was to give me a brutally honest opinion of the work. “My time is precious, so if you honestly think completing this project is a waste of time, you really, really need to tell me!” I instructed her.
I’m an impatient thing, and I wanted Vanessa’s responses immediately, but again, I had to wait. And in the waiting, I formed the opinion that Vanessa hated the book, that it was a bust. I gave up on the project quietly and started thinking about what might be next.
What was actually next, in my inbox on Saturday morning, were Vanessa’s very articulate and encouraging responses. I learned that her take on the book mirrored mine. While her favorite scenes were not my favorites, they were definitely in the section of the book I felt was strong; the weaker areas she identified were in the section that I view as still a work in progress. And Vanessa also outed me, in that she clearly saw I had trouble with the concept of fiction as the book begins.
What makes me so happy, though, is that Vanessa summed up the story line—the point of the book—just as I would have, if someone had posed the question to me. I am so motivated now, that I already spent an hour or so on a new scene, and I will now block off days, and perhaps even a week or two, to finish and get this thing done!
Here are some of the less specific questions I asked Vanessa, and excerpts from her responses.
What was your overall opinion of the manuscript? I really enjoyed what you have so far. I can see in the beginning the struggle in transitioning from nonfiction to fiction, as some of your personal life hinted through. I can also see how you did make the transition and work your way through that challenge. Stylistically speaking, it is similar to Divine Renovations.
Would you recommend I continue the work of completing it or let it die a graceful death? Why? I honestly think you have something here. Plus, I hate giving up on things, and I feel that in life there is never room for regrets. You owe it to Rox and Alex to finish their story and give them the chance they deserve. I found myself chuckling at times, feeling emotional at others and overall invested in the story and characters. Keep going!
What were your main take-aways? I think the book on the surface is a love story, or a romance if it were to be placed in a neat package for an agent, but I think the point of it is much more than that. I think it is more a coming-of-age story, or a story about finding yourself, and furthermore a story that shows that finding yourself can happen at any age. I think Rox represents so many women in the world, at any and all ages, and is an extremely sympathetic character.
Did you form an attachment to any of the characters? Why? I feel like I did form an attachment to Rox. I found myself relating to her in many ways. She made me want to be more independent. She reminded me of myself at times.
Did you care about them? I felt very invested in both characters, yes. More so in Rox than Alex, because, above all else, I wanted her to do what was right for her in the end, and if that ended up not being with Alex, then so be it. She was so empowered in developing her own future and securing it that this is what I felt most concerned with, and I appreciated that this is what was most important to her, not just pleasing Alex or finding love. I love the way that Alex and Rox are able to connect in a way that doesn’t require words. I think you do a great job of showing this and could maybe develop this more.
What else should I know? That you still have work to do, which you know, but what you have has amazing qualities that I think many people will appreciate and connect with. I do not like romance novels Janice, I read Stephen King, and I liked this. Your style of writing is enticing and fun, it keeps the reader engaged. Your characters are interesting and sympathetic, giving reason to continue reading for want of knowing what the outcome will be. A good piece of fiction, no matter the plot, hinges on character development; if your reader cannot connect with the characters there is no point. I connected with Rox, and I honestly think I will not be the only one that will do so.