Let’s face it. I have amazing readers, who offer brilliant feedback and invaluable insight into the writing process.
Monday I posted a working title for my memoir, as well as a draft of chapter 1. And you made substantial suggestions for improving each. For this, I thank you.
In the writing classes I used to teach, I’ve had students do peer-reviews as part of the composition process–encouraging them to try out their drafts on one another to determine what revisions were needed. However, foolishly perhaps, I hadn’t thought to use those of you who read my blog as an actual focus group for testing drafts of my own work-in-progress. Yes, I’ve shared with you the stories I intended to incorporate into my memoir, but I’ve not posted drafts and requested actual feedback about how to improve them. Yes, others post chapters of novels they’re working on, but I’ve not noticed folks asking for actual criticism.
I did just that on Monday, and you, members of my reading audience, came through in a big way. Some shared simple suggestions or chimed in on whether or not they liked my working title. Others offered more detailed feedback on the chapter itself. Both kinds of information are enormously valuable, as I collect data about what works, what doesn’t work, and why.
The success of this memoir will partly depend on you, and I intend to thank the reading members of my test audience in the acknowledgements section of the book itself. I feel blessed to have a group of brilliant readers and writers, from around the world, to participate in this project.
You keep me going. You motivate me, even when the feedback isn’t altogether positive–especially when your response is mixed or even downright negative. Why? Because you hold me accountable. You tell me what’s effective. You offer concrete suggestions about how to improve my work.
So, here are my decisions, based on feedback you’ve offered this week:
1. I’m scrapping the title, Praying for the Mob: A Childhood Gambled on God and the Mob. Though many of you liked the title, as I did, there was enough negative feedback that I now believe I need something significantly shorter. Now I’m considering:
Odds: A Childhood Gambled on God and Mob (or)
Odds: A Mafia Childhood (or)
The Mob-God Odds: A Mafia Childhood (or)
Odds: A Memoir
I’m aiming for a title that communicates the strange juxtaposition that I grew up with–a father in organized crime and a mother who was a devout, Bible-believing Christian. I want it to express the extremes of right and wrong I wrestled with as a child.
2. I’ve decided to also scrap chapter 1 as posted on Monday. I’m deep into a radical revision that will delete the Baby Doc material. I may still use the Duvalier interview in a preface, adding the context that allowed me to meet Baby Doc in the first place. In the newer draft, I will begin chapter 1 with an FBI raid of our house when I was a teenager–one that I witnessed. I’ll use that event to introduce the players in my drama–my siblings and I, the federal government, and my parents–both mother and father and how they behaved during that raid–how that was emblematic of the larger roles they played in my childhood and my evolution into an adult.
I hope to post a revised draft of chapter 1 next week.
Again, I want to thank everyone who offered feedback earlier this week, anyone who’s offered feedback any place along the way, for that matter. You are dear to me–and a huge part of this memoir’s evolution.
I can’t encourage others strongly enough to do as I have and post drafts of important writing projects on your blogs. Ask for feedback. Use your readers as a focus group. They will come through for you in the same amazing ways my readers have for me.
We have a brilliant group of writers who post on WordPress. We can come together virtually from around the world, read one another’s work-in-progress, and help make it better.
As blog readers and writers, we form the ultimate compositional focus group.
We can influence the texts of tomorrow by posting and commenting today. Please join this writing revolution by leaving a response below.
What feedback can you offer about what I’ve written above, especially about the title options and/or my revised strategy for chapter 1? Will you consider posting work-in-progress on your blog? Will you ask for feedback, both positive and negative?