A Book Report


I’m going to write a book report. Some of you may not know what I’m talking about but can probably deduce that I’ll be writing a report on a book.

When I had book report assignments in school, I had to discern what the story was about. Otherwise known as “theme,” sometimes I thought I didn’t really get the entire scope of the story. I would still identify who the lead characters where, protagonist, etc. I’d be reading the book in a different way than say non-book report writers who would commence reading without much thinking about it. I would be putting the words and paragraphs under a microscope to see what was really going on, technically.

I finally sent my manuscript, “Under the Birch Tree,” to two sources for critiquing services. My first critiquer is a writer, editor and teacher with primary specialty in personal narrative. She has a simple philosophy: She believes that anyone can improve their writing skills with the right kind of guidance. My second critiquer has professional expertise in book publishing and coaching writers through the completion of their book proposals and manuscripts. She is also an Executive Director of a small press.

I found their critiques complement each other. Their reports were organized with comments and “big picture things” outlined with details. My theme was both critiquer’s first topic for discussion. The writer-editor-teacher stated my central theme as finding home with the birch tree as a metaphor illustrating this theme. Thankfully, this came across to her! Being a writer herself, she asked that I bear with her while she thought it through on the page. Through her stream of consciousness writing, I saw her points and realized my shortcomings. The book publishing/writing coach nailed my through-threads as my search for a true home, however, the theme doesn’t run through the entire memoir and tying everything together, well, she doesn’t see it throughout. She also asks questions: Why am I telling the story I’m telling? Why am I including the scenes I’m including? Both critiques are valuable pieces of information. But just how exactly do I execute these suggested changes and do rewrites necessary to make my story better?

Back to the book report.

I’m going to write the report on my own book. As an objective reader, (hard to do because I know what happens) I am going to examine weak spots and make them stronger and try to answer the questions the publisher/writing coach asked. I will make it more memoir and less autobiography by digging more deep into meanings and let my lyricism of my writing work well in more places. And I’ll try to answer why I’m including the scenes I have chosen to include.

I may still find it challenging, if not, difficult, to turn their critiqued pages into productive rewrites to enable my story to be my best work. But I’m hoping to rely on old school ways of writing a book report will guide me to applying what I’ve learned from the two critiquers.

I never knew a book report could be a valuable tool in developing a manuscript.

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