Monday, May 07, 2007

When the Author is a Child

"Hey, Mom, I need $10," began DS#2.

"Why?" was my reflexive response.

"Myfriendatschool has published a book and I want to buy a copy," he answered.

A notable comment in two ways: DS#2 is not much of reader and, so, not inclined to buy books and he's only a sophomore in high school. Someone he know actually had a book published? I was impressed.

I gave him the money, he read the book.

"How was it?" I asked.

"Okay. It ended a little quick," he replied.

"I'd like to read it."

He gave me the book and I read it over the course of a couple of days. We discussed it in the mornings as I drove him to school.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"Well..." I began. Then stopped. According the back cover, the author wrote this story the summer before she started high school. So she was barely 14. But she managed to complete a novel and get it published. Most of the stuff that I wrote at 14 is buried in notebooks or in my high school yearbook. I've managed to learn a lot about life and about writing in the intervening years. But I don't want to be too harsh.

I settled for this: "She could have used an editor."

"How do you know she didn't have one?" he asked.

"Because of her sentence structure. Because she repeated words in the same sentence. Because she used too many adverbs."

"There's spelling errors, too," DS#2 commented.

That surprised me--spelling is not his best subject. So the errors must have been pretty obvious if he caught them.

DD#2 is reading the book now. She knows some of my criticisms, but I wanted her reaction as a 13-y.o. Would she notice the same things I did? Would she realize the adults in the story are mostly absent: either dead or they don't seem to care when the heroine leaves home. (And no adult notices her scars or that she misses a lot of school and calls Family Services.)

I settled for telling DS#2 that the story was good but the grammar was weak. There are three more books planned in the series. I'm interested to see if her writing skills grow with her experience. At the same time I don't want to be too harsh--after all, taking a story from rough draft to publication is a difficult task for most adults!

And, yes, I agreed with DS#2 that the ending is a little abrupt.