Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another beta reader gives feedback on my #novel #Jihadi

Beta reader +Bill Morrison's messages below could not have come at a better time for me. I have finished my big fix-it pass on the 119,000 word manuscript, and am getting it ready to send out to agents. It's feeling like things are lining up within the novel.

I asked Bill for feedback, and for any help he could offer in identifying cuts. Here's what he wrote back:

 
Brandon,
I must be failing as any kind of editor as I cannot see any of the text I would cut.

I am finding the story very emotionally engaging. Not surprisingly I find Faitima’s story to be the one which draws me in most, her character and family situation is very credible. I loved the part about her cutting back the weeds around the new house for some reason, her unfriendly new  neighbour and her mother’s lack of communication were all very strong for me. I can imagine her mother as being uncertain in the modern world and why her daughter is now the head of the family.

As a side character, her boss who asked her to take off her head scarf was very vivid. 
The heavy set woman rousing the rabble with the megaphone was quite chilling. As it happens, my uncle saw exactly this happening in Egypt during the British occupation just before Nasser took over.
 
Being very familiar with America and having met a lot of US servicemen, I can recognise the American characters as being very real. Unfortunately I think I may have met the prick who organised the dog fighting and know the type.
 
Funny, I took the repetitions you mention as being references to oral history telling and part of the rhythm, a way to remove the story from immediate narrative.

The change in point of view without warning feels like a good device to me as it makes the whole thing into one tale which is bigger than the character’s own plot lines.

Your comments about the first twenty pages are right, it takes a bit of time to get the beat of the book, but I feel the same about Melville. The first chapter of Moby Dick wears me out.
 
***

Well it is Saturday evening here and I have just finished your book. I suppose the end of a book is not the last full stop, but the last step in the narrative and for me the last words that closed out the tale were when Fatima says that she is her "own Republic now". 
What a great phrase, you leave it very open to what that means for her, but when I read it in the context of the environment she was having to live in, it was a little bit like the despair of losing the relationship she had with her own community and, at the same time taking the right to state her right to be independent. Like a sorrowful declaration that there is nothing for her in the Republic of her own people and all the responsibility that a Republic has, is now on her shoulders. The fact that she said it through a video link also makes me think of those final messages suicide bombers make.

She's a great character, all the better because she has such a light description. Cannot wait to see the book in print.


For me, Fatima is a very good response to Hobbes ( life is nasty brutish and short / it is all against all etc).  She accepts her duty and surrenders her life. Thelonius has been trained to accept danger and death, she responds to an ethical trauma.
Great theme and really lives up to what I understand is the true meaning of the title.
Congratulations.

(Click on the picture of my cat Paprika to read an excerpt from JIHADI.)
 

http://brandontoropov.blogspot.com/2013/03/chapter-one-being-various-notes-on.html