I finished my novella at just under 40k and sent it off to a close friend for a good read through. I was so pleased with the response that I have to share it here:
Dearest Casia, I have read this now 3 times and am having a terrible time editing it … to be honest having suffered from depression for a great deal of my life I didn’t feel that the severity of the angst of a teen confronting this illness was adequately relayed. I had to put it down and really lay aside my own experiences and reread it coming form the prospective of a teenage girl living in the time of Facebook. I am always astonished by your writing, the characters are really engaging, the conversations so real sometimes I forget we are in a book going somewhere. I find myself wanting to get to know more about who mom, or Marlee are as individuals, sometimes even more than I am about where the story itself is going. If that says anything at all it is that you need to be writing novels. you need a much broader canvas. In the end however it feels like an outline, like there is a deeper darker story here, as a reader I felt denied. As a friend I can tell you this is the hardest topic to write about, I have not succeeded. I think that takes a courage and vulnerability I am not graced with. After reading your story I found myself incredibly upset over Rehtaeh Parsons and Megan Meier (again) and outraged at the number of similar stories. This is why its important to write about. Spell and gram check says its okay… you seriously don’t want me checking that
As you can see, not exactly a glowing “Go publish that puppy” sort of review, but it may be the most helpful set of comments I’ve ever received. Taking the first comment to heart, I was worried that the experiences, and there for the depth of the suffering, of the main character were rushed. That ties in to the next critical comment – that it felt like an outline and that it should be longer.
Well, there’s something I can do about that and I’ve spent days contemplating and outlining and I think I have a better grasp of the story now. I’m not yet ready to edit it, there is more I want to consider and work through before I tackle the story itself, mainly the bulimic best-friend sub-plot, but I feel confident that the story is now headed in the right direction.
As for the comment that there is “a deeper darker story here”, I think there is too, but I was afraid to write it. I was afraid of scaring off the reader. But if pussy-footing around the hard truth of this character’s experiences is going to leave the reader feeling denied, then I’m going to have to face the darkness and write what needs to be written.
There is a quote for writers, something about “killing your darlings”, which means not being afraid to cut out your favourite scenes, lines, or even characters, if they serve no purpose in the story. There will be some of that when I edit, I’m sure. But I think most of what I have is salvageable for the rewrite.
I’m glad I took the time to get a second opinion before releasing the novella (which may really turn out to be a full 60-80k novel) to the public. I don’t think I would have been happy with it, or its reception. Now I have the chance to make it what it can be, what it should be, and what I am capable of allowing it to be.