I started sharing The Purer, Brighter Years when I joined a little writing group about a year ago. (By the way, you might recall that I wrote a play of the same name a long, long time ago. That play was done once in a staged reading in Traverse City, Michigan, and has never been heard from again. I re-claimed the title.) The responses to it from my fellow writers was good, both in terms of positive feedback and insights and suggestions. But it also made me aware of what works and what doesn't, and as I read the pages -- no more than ten -- out loud, I immediately saw things that could be cut, heard what clunked and what sang, and found whole passages that could be thrown out. I also found places where I needed more exposition, explanation, and insight.
When I started with the group, I purposely avoided sharing Bobby Cramer with them. For one thing, reading a 1,200 page novel ten pages a week meant it would take two years to get to where I am now, and I'm still writing. Second, Bobby was never meant to be published. I just wanted to write the story for myself, explore his character and his life, and leave it as my own private work.
That's how it was going until a couple of months ago when I was having lunch with a colleague at work and we got to talking about my writing. I boldly offered to read her some of The Purer, Brighter Years, and she took me up on it. So every day at lunch I would read her a chapter, and we'd discuss it. Since I was doing it almost every day, within a few weeks I had read her everything I'd written in that story... and left her hanging with a real cliffhanger that I'm still working on. Now what?
Despite my vow, I started reading her Bobby Cramer. As I did, I started reading it over and over again, and I started editing, cutting, adding, and now I'm on track to finish it before I finish reading it aloud. (Not to worry about PBY; there's time to finish it, too.)
What I've learned in the process is that there are things my subconscious writer does that I'm not even aware of in telling the story. Parallelisms, confluence of moments, contrasts of characters, climaxes and denouements that flow from telling the tale and listening to the inner Bobby and the rest of the cast. It may not be Chaucer or Fitzgerald, but it amazes me that in hearing the story out loud, in my own voice, how much more I'm learning about the people that I'm writing about.