This morning, I was up bright and early (except not so much of the “bright”).
Tradition dictates that once a year we lose one hour of much-needed sleep in order to … well, I’m not quite sure what the point of daylight savings is, but I’m pretty sure that the person who created it was also a person who was able to have a lie-in. If they had a partner who worked on Sunday mornings and an incredibly light-sleeping toddler, they might have reconsidered.
This Sunday is a little different for me however, because my university classes finished this week – no book to read and research, and no writing from classmates to enjoy and critique. That’s not to say I have nothing to do. Quite the opposite. There are still assessments and deadlines to be met before the end of the academic year. But in many ways, the hard work is done for this year. Time to sit down with a cup of tea and reflect on what I’ve learned so far.
Yesterday I sent a draft of one of my short stories to a good friend. “I like most of it,” she said, “until that very last part.” The ending wasn’t right for her, and she was left feeling unsatisfied. I’d built up an interesting world with an intriguing central character and although I loved the ending, my reader thought that it was a disappointing anti-climax.
“What should I do?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m seeing it from the reader’s perspective and … it doesn’t feel right.”
And then I realised that she was telling me (in the plain-speaking bluntness that only a true friend can manage) what my tutor had been trying to teach us all semester – the reader comes first. I needed to revisit my story but this time with the questions, “what do I want the reader to feel by the end? If I was the reader, would I be able to sympathise with this character and would I be satisfied with the ending?”
To paraphrase Stephen King (On Writing – if you haven’t read it yet, do), the first draft is for the writer but every other draft has to be for the reader, otherwise you risk shutting them out.
If I hadn’t lost that extra hour to daylight savings, what would I have done with it? Slept more, probably. Or pottered around doing housework and checking emails. Procrastinated (I’m good at that – I think most writers are.) That’s probably what I’ll do when I get that hour back in October. But maybe the lack of sleep was a good thing – it got my brain working, reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned this year and, importantly, how it applies to my work.
Time to get to work on my next draft, and see if I can reach a more satisfying ending.