I thought this might…

I thought this might interest the readerly-curious -- these are the questions I appended to the draft of the nonfiction book I just sent out. So you can see where my mind is obsessing these days...


1. I'm concerned about the tone; it starts off okay, but I'm worried that it seems too distant through much of the draft, and maybe too tense. Any thoughts you have on tone would be helpful -- do you want more emotion, more scenic description, more lush prose, etc.? Are there sections you particularly like or dislike the tone of? (I.e., the start of ch. 9 is very different from much of the rest -- different good or bad?)

2. There's a bunch of philosophical/contemplative stuff I'm hoping to get at with this book, but I haven't put hardly any of it in yet. Do you think it should be more woven in throughout, or are you still okay waiting for it at this point in the draft?

3. There are two major threads in the book -- one about home/ethnicity/nationalism, and one about love/sex/marriage. Right now, they probably seem unconnected to the reader. Is it okay waiting to connect them later, or is it too disruptive as it stands?

4. Structurally, the travel sections right now alternate with memoir, both chronological. Jed suggested that maybe there's no need for the memoir sections to be chronological -- that it might feel more natural/organic to just intersperse whatever chunks of memoir seem appropriate. I'm torn. Any thoughts on this would be welcome!

Still happy to add more first readers, if anyone else is willing to take a look and give feedback. The draft stands at around 67 pages right now.

2 thoughts on “I thought this might…”

  1. on #4, I’d say (sight unseen) that it’s perfectly good style to pair one chronological thread with another non-chronological thread, in which the second thread is tied to the first by thematic or associative links much like being reminded of a past experience by a present one.

    Scrambling up the timeline of one (or even both) of your threads gives you so much freedom to shape the development and resolution of whatever themes you’re working on that I might go so far as to say that if you have more than one timeline in a non-fiction work, it’s almost always more effective if at least one of them isn’t tied to strict chronology.

  2. I’ll agree with Jed on point #4. In terms of real life, memories, of course, don’t work in chronological recall. They are not part of a simple structure. But with storytelling, the manner in which these truths appear may have to be augmented for sake of clarification. I don’t know how much I consciously thought about this as a writer before I saw the movie “Ray.” Throughout the film, he continually has flashbacks of moments from childhood and early adulthood which inform the viewer of a complete life without making the movie seven hours long. I talked with friends about this and they didn’t seem to share my issue with the presentation of these scenes. Each moment of recall is managed chronologically. This bothered me in two ways: the first being how the arrangement felt unnatural and the second beingperhaps more of a botherhow the character’s own chronological memory felt unnatural. Maybe this is where the debate ishow the character works, not the story. I wonder how separate the two can be, though.

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