You’d think children learn when they go to school – and they do, of course! What I didn’t realise was just how much I would learn by reading to them. To put it into context, last Friday was part of a get-your-head-down-and-just-get-through-it weekend of absent husband, guests staying, another funeral, a million zillion jobs I would have never signed up to if I’d realised they were all at the same time, and virtually no sleep.
Fair to say then that all of this was hanging over me a little when I trudged into school to do my second reading, namely chapters 4-6 of my manuscript The Dog-Walking Consortium. With a week gone since the last time, I wondered if they’d even remember anything.
- There is nothing, but nothing that kids won’t spot. Stop trying to rationalise; just admit you’ve accidentally got someone’s eye colour wrong or given them a different breed of dog in chapter 6. Fix it and be grateful.
- Watching young listeners is a brilliant way of measuring entertainment value. There were a couple of paragraphs which I thought were pretty funny. Alas, no laughs! Depression! However, a handful of phrases and expressions got proper belly laughs; so much so that I had to stop reading until things had settled. Result! I learned a bit more about what works and what doesn’t.
- The chapters which had a particular character in them (an elderly neighbour) fared particularly well. There might be a bit of mileage in extending those interactions, as Miss Trundle appears to be such a favourite with my target audience. Even reading her aloud has brought her to life for me in a way which just wasn’t there before, and I love her more for it.
- Above all, know this: kids are encouragers. My wonderful audiences had some specific comments and suggestions, but overall they were definitely on my side, rooting for me and – really importantly – for my poor main character. All but three of my post-its this week were variations on ‘I just love it!
For me, the best moment (after more than half an hour of reading) was this: a loud chorus of groans when I declared it was time to stop.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll write and write – and you can bet your bottom dollar that Miss Trundle will elbow her way into the story once more!