This morning, Corey, Erin, and I got on the phone for a check-in call with our clients, Chris and Richelle. We do these calls first after the outline and introduction are created, then after Chapter 1, then every month thereafter. It’s an opportunity for Corey and Erin to lend fresh eyes to a manuscript with which clients and I have become intimately familiar—so much so that we can develop blind spots: a moment when the story slows or a crucial detail is withheld. Corey and Erin’s instinctive, candid reflection on the reading experience gives the client—and me—something invaluable: perspective.
Today, we were talking about rewrites to the first three chapters of Chris and Richelle’s book. They’ve been wonderful to work with because of their willingness to dive into the editing process, to re-immerse themselves in their own history in order to create a full, richly dimensioned world on the page. They’ve embraced a process I call “layering.”
Imagine starting out with a sketch of a house—you see the outline, the shapes of doors and windows, trees in the front yard. Then you layer another drawing, on a translucent sheet, on top, and suddenly the house is brick, with a tile roof, and the leaves on the tree are gold and rust-colored. Then another drawing reveals, through the window, two kids on a white couch and a cross beneath one oak where a pet was buried. Then another drawing on top of that, and so on. We create the initial sketch through our phone calls. Then, together, we layer.
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It’s an intensely vulnerable process, because each layer added to the story is one less the client has to rely on for protection against the reader’s judgment.
“Why are we doing this?” Chris asked on last week’s phone call. “Why are we making ourselves so vulnerable? We’re doing it to connect.”
Today, as Corey and Erin shared their feedback on the book, I felt that connection. Their voices rose in excitement as they explained their reaction to certain pages, scenes, and moments. Each point led to another—one more, “Oh! And the part when . . .” And what was fascinating and wonderful to hear was that each of them was responding powerfully to different pieces of the book. What spoke most strongly to Corey may have only whispered to Erin, while the scenes that made her pause may not have slowed Corey’s movement through the story. There was overlap, of course, but it was as though the book were engaging each of them in the conversation they most needed.
That’s the beautiful thing about story: in one, there are infinite. And when that infinite is shared as vulnerably as the reader sits before it, the pieces will find their places.
What is the last line you read that spoke directly to your life, right now?