In his book On Writing, Stephen King writes about the importance of having one ideal reader. It’s my favorite passage in a book full of hundreds of compelling passages about the craft, because I’m fortunate to have one such ideal reader.
His are the fourth set of ears to hear the rough draft of my work. I first time I read the draft aloud—to catch glaring errors my eyes don’t see, to listen to the cadence of the language, and to ensure that the dialogue rings true—three sets of ears hear it: my own and those of my cats, General and Olivia.
The cats’ critiques are useless, though.
Not my son’s. His fourth set of ears listens to my second draft. My son has no problem telling me straight that a chapter is boring, hilarious, or creepy. He is as honest and unflinching a critic as you’d be lucky to meet. If his eyes glaze over, my next few days are spent in rewrites. When he begs me for “Just one more chapter”, I know I’m on to something.
And when my book is finally ready for the eyes of my editor, the boy who owns those fourth set of ears gives me celebratory presents.
The fourth set of ears gave me this skull after I’d finished The Pirate’s Booty.
The fourth set of ears gave me this tiger after I’d finished The Crystal Lair.
The fourth set of ears has been listening to readings of the third book in the Inventor-in-Training series. A few rewrites are in order, but he’s been asking for “one more chapter of your creepy book”, so perhaps it’s nearly time to send it to the editor.
I’m hoping for another present soon.