It's such a relief to me to read this book again and find that I still approve. Wouldn't it be terrible to reread your own published book and feel mortified? Or yearn for a chance to change it? I'm certain the book isn't perfect (whatever that might mean), nor is it remotely right for everyone. But writers will always fail trying to write a book to Everyone or to any audience outside ourselves. For my own internal reader, this book still stands up.
Here is my humiliating play-by-play to reading the chapter: "Ooh, that's good. Ooh, I like that line. Such tension! Good paragraph. Go Miri!" Yes, I'm cheering on my own writing. Now whenever I blog something like that, revealing that I approve of my own books, I get comments and/or emails scolding me for being arrogant. Please know that this comes after a year and a half of writing every day, crying, praying, sweating over the manuscript, doing rewrite after rewrite after rewrite, taking in tons of criticism, pondering it and using it to make the book better. Every book flings me down into the depths of mortification and self-doubt, and I have to fight my way out of the pit. After all that work, am I allowed to sit back and feel proud of what I've done? Maybe not. But I do wonder, if I were a man, would the reaction to my self-approval be as negative? I think we tend to be a little harder on women. Just thinking aloud here, because I'm finding little to say about these chapters.
Okay, here's something: FORESHADOWING, that wonderful literary quiz term. The "f" word (foreshadowing, we're talking about foreshadowing) must be used lightly, but to ignore it entirely can make the readers surprised in a bad way. I mentioned the bandits three before they arrived: once when soldiers arrive in chapter 3, once to Olana, and then at the Spring Festival the narrator mentions the villagers retold the story as they always do. Any more than that, and the reader will be like, "Yeah, I get it, bandits are going to show up later." Any less than that and the reader will be like, "Bandits? That's random!" As a writer, I try to be so delicate with any foreshadowing that the reader barely notices it or forgets it soon thereafter, so that when the foreshadowed event occurs, the reader remembers and is surprised in that good way. That's my goal anyway. Whether or not I succeed depends on each reader.
Moments of victory: I like little moments of victory nestled inside larger tales. They're like good finger holds on a steep climbing wall. If everything is dark, depressing, hopeless, as a reader I start to buy out. When Miri and the girls tell their captors the bandits story, as a reader I can take a breath and keep reading. When Miri feels Peder quarry-speech from afar, that's a moment.
Looking back at my third draft when quarry-speech was a kind of cheesy telepathy, these chapters were far less tense. Silly even. If I were to map out the scenes of my earliest complete draft to the final, I think it would seem like little changed in this particular book. From first to last, the outline of the story stayed essentially the same. But the writing within changed so much, I doubt a single sentence remained untouched. Rewriting sometimes is just about making what I have work better. Imagery, tension, character, relationships, tone, layers, significance--all these things come through rewrites.
Three more chapters! Ask me your questions, I'll try to get to them all Tues/Wed/Thurs. Next week I have new stuff planned: boys and books! Photos! Contest with prizes!