I feel wistful in a way – the experiment of reading a manuscript aloud as it’s
written has been unexpectedly uplifting. The children of my local primary school have come, heard and spoken. So, what difference has it made?
- It may be barn-door obvious, but the thing got written – and much more quickly than I would have done it otherwise. Having the weekly pressure of an eager audience, and children trying to bribe me in the street, if only I could tell them what happened next – it does something for your motivation, let me tell you.
- The story changed. Not by itself, obviously, but in response to the target audience, shut into a room with me and my characters for almost an hour every week. The dog breeds changed – kids love Pugs and Labradors, and they told me so! They wanted more about the eccentric elderly neighbour. More about the policeman, please. ‘Make that bit longer’, they said, ‘that bit is funny!’ And I obliged.
- Reading aloud sorts out bad writing. Awkward phrases jam in your mouth, convoluted sentences rugby-tackle your tongue. If it sounds good when read aloud, it’s probably good!
- In the end, the best bit for me was that it made me feel like a writer. I FEEL like a writer when kids agonise with my main character in his predicament. They wrinkle their foreheads as they try to puzzle out his problems, and they whoop at his successes. It does not get better than that.
Just over half an hour until I give my last reading.