The Literary Crowd Weighs In

I’m a writer. Have I mentioned that? A writer of more than this blog, even. I’ve referred in various posts to my being a lawyer. I don’t think I’ve said that I also write. Essays. Fiction. Stuff.

I belong to a five-person writers’ collective. We meet monthly to discuss each other’s recent work. This month, for the first time, I told the other members about this blog and asked for their thoughts.

I made the request before last weekend’s “card-counting” incident. Since then, I’ve reconsidered whether I should have brought this exercise to the writers.

What the hay. What’s done is done, and I got some worthwhile editorial comments at our meeting last night. I’ve decided to diverge from my musings about Martin and share some of the suggestions, to give everyone an idea of where I might head with the posts. I’ve grouped the ideas into bullet-points. Lawyers love bullet-points. Sometimes it carries over into their other writing.

  • More in-scene action. I give a lot of space to pondering, analyzing, explaining, and (in the word I used above) musing. My collective does not disapprove of that, but finds the “scenes” most enjoyable, such as Martin interacting with the boy in the museum, or shaking a waiter’s hand. I’m also asked to provide more balance by describing events that do not necessarily evince progress, i.e., that illustrate the reality we live with today, pre-recovery. (“The positive parts are presented in-scene,” said Writer Paul, “but the bad parts are presented in more of a distant and diagnostic fashion.”) I suppose, if I strain my memory, I can come up with a few anecdotes about self-stimming or lack of joint attention.
  • More Adrian. I mention my husband often, but I’m not allowing him to be enough of a “character,” to occupy fully his own role in Martin’s story. For example, I should stop summarizing conversations I have with Adrian, and instead quote his voice. I should occasionally allow Adrian some blog space for reactions and commentary, too. I’m still contemplating these ideas, and whether I can further exploit Adrian as a character while maintaining his privacy as, well, a person.
  • A wider cast. We travel. We have friends. Martin goes to school and on playdates. We encounter a lot of people, and I should consider letting more of them color our adventures. I’m wondering whether that means I need to keep coming up with aliases. I’m starting to have trouble keeping them straight.
  • More about writing and lawyering. I can make myself more human, and perhaps appeal to a broader audience, if I lasso in aspects of my life beyond Martin’s recovery. (Strangely, my writers’ collective operates under the impression that I have a life beyond Martin’s recovery.) I’m still contemplating this idea, too. Months ago I read an article purporting to describe the top ten things bloggers do to lose readers, and one of them was going off-topic. This is “a parent’s real-time blog of autism recovery,” not “a parent’s real-time blog of whether she’s still going to turn that novel draft by 2012.” So we’ll see.
  • A glossary. I’m doing a decent job of keeping the autism science to a minimum, and thereby not alienating readers outside the ASD community. (I took credit and pretended this was intentional. Faithful readers know the truth: I don’t understand the autism science and will look foolish if I try to present it.) At the same time, I may throw around terms unfamiliar to a new reader, thereby forcing him/her to rummage older posts in search of a definition. I should consider a glossary page that collects ASD-insider terms.

I should say that my fellow writers are good for more than criticism. They also talk about what they like. Apparently this blog engages the reader because it is not clear where the journey will end, whether Martin will recover. The reader feels invested in the quest for more information about autism, its sources, and its defeat. In that vein, the pictures help. Seeing Martin in action, even if only from behind, lends an immediacy to the reflections.

I was happy to hear, also, that I come off as well-read, reasonable, and hardly kooky at all. Though perhaps my fellow writers just said that because I was sitting with them, in person?

Finally, the overall quality of the writing, wordsmith-wise, was deemed high. That was comforting. One of Martin’s service providers once said to me, “You probably aren’t that concerned with it for purposes of the blog, but you do write so well.” And I thought—not that concerned with it? Yeah, sure.

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