I wrote in my last post that I had finished the first publishable version of the book (the title is "Yesterday's Sandhills" by the way), and that I had sent a copy to my co-author for her impressions. Well, today I have gotten some encouragement about the book and other good news from a friend of my wife's and from my sister-in-law.
Let me tell you that during the course of working on the book, I put many hours into restructuring and rewording the story, researching historical facts to enhance the story with, and so on, but I was never quite sure I was doing a good enough job. My wife, Val, was of little help, unfortunately, because she is so close to the story, her taste in reading material is quite different from mine, and she was resisting getting very involved anyway because while I have been working on the book she has been spending the past year and half attending training and studying to be certified as a nutritional therapist (which she quite recently attained, so that is cool!). So I wasn't getting a lot of usable feedback from her, except for one notion (also independently suggested by our daughter in law), which was to take a more action-oriented part of the later story and put it at the beginning as a "flash-forward", and that seems to have made a crucial difference.
But I was quite unsure I had done anything useful after all this time and effort, until the wife took my manuscript to show to a lady she works with, Jane. This woman and her husband are actually publishers (though not of this kind of book), so Val had shown her the original manuscript months ago, and Jane had said it was a great story, but that it desperately needed someone who knew what they were doing to rewrite it for publication. After I finished my second rewrite two weeks ago, my wife took one of the copies to Jane to show her. This is part of her report:
"Val, I think this book is great and it is very well written. I had time to read only the prologue, first chapter, last chapter and epilogue ... [she then wrote some comments about some word usage which I will not reproduce here, and ends with:] ... The writing style is excellent and I surely think this is worthy of publication. Your husband has really done a good job and is quite a good editor. There will always be a few grammatical errors and/or questionable punctuation marks, but the important components are the story itself and it being told in an interesting manner."
I can't tell you how much of a relief this was! Someone who works in the publishing field actually thinks that it is worthy of publication! All this time I had been wondering if I was turning a poorly-written but fascinating and compelling story into a grammatically-correct but boring documentary, and now at last a ray of sunshine! I mean, I myself thought I had done a decent job of it, but how objective could I really be? Jane said to Val that we should get the manuscript out to potential publishers as soon as possible, since there is a lot of current interest in stories related to World War 2.
The book still needs some work. I am starting to go through it again to try to "tighten up" the writing, and also correct a few mistakes I found upon re-reading it (how do these things creep in like that?). I also need to add some material to the Epilog (that tells about what happened to everybody in the end), but even better is that a few days ago my sister-in-law, Rita, rediscovered a 20-page typewritten manuscript she had written from her mother's dictation over twenty years ago, which I will be integrating into the book when I get a copy. This manuscript tells about her mother's experience in the Soviet prison camp, and Rita says it is tragic, suspenseful and a "real tear jerker." I am wondering how I can integrate it into the existing manuscript; maybe Tom Clancy style, you know, jump from one point of view to the other. Anyway, there are fun and games ahead, that's for certain.