Over the weekend, I read the entire latest draft of the sequel to The Mad Wol’f’s Daughter to my 11-year-old son (aka the Lad). He was building amazing things in Minecraft (no, not sitting there paying attention to nothing but the book for ten hours—though more than once he paused and just listened). At the end of every chapter, he pointed out what didn’t make sense (I went back that night and tweaked), which parts were slow (I went back that night and rewrote), and also told me what was working and what the points of tension were.
He also suggested a really clever detail. (He did that with two parts of Book 1 as well.) Neither of us can remember what this clever detail was, but it was a great one that brought elements of the plot together, the kind of detail that ripples through the book and belongs so well that you’d never imagine it’d ever been missing.
I’ve been called “a master storyteller,” and while the Lad says I should take all credit for that, he deserves some of it. He understands what makes plots strong, characters deep, and descriptions lyrical. He tells me when I need to work on something, and when I do it right. And in this stage of editing and revision where I was racing to meet a tight deadline, having an actual reader in the room who knows how to plot and sees connections and evaluate made a world of difference.
I’m lucky to have his help, and his willingness to listen to me read my draft. And his support. We authors struggle to make our writing soar and sing—and it’s not always easy to do that under deadline without the endless raft of time that we had before. But it’s so much easier when there’s a member of our reading audience in the house whose critique will be firm but kindly spoken and whose praise will feel like summer—and who always encourages us to keep going.