Skip to main content

My Alpha

It turns out my husband is a fantastic alpha reader. Who knew? We've been married for 13 years and have known each other for 21. And last weekend was the first time I ever had him alpha read for me. Turns out he's the best creative partner I could ever hope for and that he still has the ability to surprise me with hidden talents and acts of love.

My husband is not really a fiction reader. He probably hasn't read a novel since high school AP lit class. It's not that he doesn't love a good story, it's that he doesn't like sitting still long enough to read a book or watch a movie. He's a very active and extroverted man, and he'd rather have a conversation or a real-life adventure than read a book. He's kind of like Gaston if Gaston weren't an asshole.

So until now, I haven't wanted to bother him with requests to read my writing, because reading novels isn't his jam, and also because I've always harbored guilt at how much time I spend on a hobby that doesn't earn any income for our family. My husband works hard at two jobs to support our daughter and me and my imaginary-friends-making habit.

Like any basic tortured artist, I struggle with justifying the time and effort I've put into the absurd project of researching and writing an epic Byzantine thriller. (...after writing and shelving a long fantasy novel and doodling around with various unfinished novels for years before that...) But I've been telling myself that having a creative outlet is healthy for me, even if it doesn't ever earn money, and my writing and critique group offered me a regular, sanity-saving excuse to get out of the house once a month and socialize with other women who share the compulsions to make shit up and workshop it to death.

Then, after seven years, my writing group dissolved.

A few years back, we attended a conference together and learned that successful authors usually wait until they have a whole book written before handing it over to their critique partners. So we decided to do that instead of trading bits and chapters each month as we'd been doing. But I'm a slow writer, and by the time I'd finished a complete draft of Leirah and the Wild Man, other group members had lost interest in participating.

A few friends offered to read my manuscript for me, which was nice. A local author even finished the whole thing and also gave some constructive feedback. But I realized that my book needed a lot of work, and it suddenly felt impossible to go on with the project alone and unsupported. Many kind people have offered moral support, and that is appreciated, but I need more.

It was hard for me to ask my husband to read for me, but I had started to feel (as I tend to do each summer, for whatever psychological reason, no matter what's going on in my life) that I am a failure of a human being who will never succeed at anything notable or meaningful in my work and that I should cut my losses now, give up, and dedicate the rest of my stupid existence to being a better housewife or something realistic like that.

My husband picked up the pieces--like literally, I had thrown my manuscript behind a piece of furniture and broken down crying--and took my draft into his man-cave and settled down to have a look at it.

He read the whole thing in just a few days. During times when he would normally be kicking back after work with a beer and the news, or some video games, or a swing in the hammock... or sleeping... he read my book instead. And he located and marked every single plot hole, character issue, continuity error, and funky word in the manuscript.

He also went to work on Monday and raved about this great book he was reading to other people, without telling them it was my book. He pitched it so well that several people asked him for the title so they could go and get a copy.

It changed everything. I feel like I can do this. I feel like I should continue. And I feel truly loved and supported, as a person and as an artist, whether or not I ever earn out my time in dollars.

And now I'd better get to work, because my alpha man has insisted that I give him my revised draft one more time before I send out queries.

They say writing is a solitary art, but it can mean the difference between quitting and succeeding to have just one other person invested in your dream. I can only imagine how many beloved novels came into the world thanks to the care of a good alpha reader.


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be:
You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")  35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't waste time o…

The Tiny Tweens

Girls really do grow up faster than they used to! My baby has just started third grade. Here she is looking like a tiny tween. Some of the girls in her class are bigger, taller, and older looking than she is. This is the new reality of girls in elementary school.

My daughter has given away nearly all of her toys and set up a neat and tidy homework desk stocked with notebooks and pens. She's more interested in Minecraft than My Little Pony now, but she still prefers to run around and play with other kids outside than to sit with a device.

Sometimes people ask me if I'm sad that my child is growing up so quickly. So far, not really. She was a very cute baby, but every year older is easier and more fun for me! We haven't yet hit peak enjoy-it-while-it-lasts.

She gets herself ready for the day. She can help with more chores. She sleeps in until about 7:00 a.m. (It used to be 5:00.) She still wants me to read to her at bedtime, but now it's horror chapter books rather than…

The Golden Moments

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) 

The only time this is not generally true for me is in the fall. This is the golden moment when I feel most alive, aware, and present with everyone and everything around me. This is when my daughter and I begin most days with a walk in the golden hour of the morning, in this most golden season of the year.

It's also that magical time when my little golden child is still excited about school, from our morning walks to seeing her friends at recess to the Scholastic Book Fair to riding the bus home with more friends. She has already earned another "Golden Warrior of the Week" award (for exceptionally helpful behavior) and received an excellent, glowing report at the first parent-teacher conference of the year.

I've extended my "fallow period" from working on my novel, and I'…

"Steh auf" for the Friday the 13th Harvest Moon!

Tonight, the lunar fall begins! Behold the Harvest Moon on the night of Friday the 13th, which hasn't happened since the year 2000 and won't happen again for another 30 years! I'm so excited because fall is my favorite season. Summer is generally when my anxiety peaks, and I question my whole life and my existence and whether I am an idiot for spending so much time writing books that might turn out to be incredibly silly and ridiculous.

And now the Harvest Moon finally comes, and with it a marvelous reminder that some of my favorite kinds of art and media are silly and ridiculous. Lindemann has released their latest video, for "Steh auf," which feels like a direct message to me from the universe to quit mainlining the Weltschmerz, stand up, recommit to my 2019 resolution to Be Bestial, and get my own silly and ridiculous work completed.

Like, I have no idea what's going on with this small stage / looney bin / Mongol invasion, but I like it. This resonates wit…