My Mother, My Son, My YA Novel

My toughest critic in life is without a doubt my mother. Ladies, you know what I mean.

That lipstick makes you look 40 (said when I was 20 and when I look at the pictures now, she was right)

That dress is too trampy (nailed it again, mum)

etc. etc.

So when I gave her my manuscript three years ago I knew she was going to be honest. Brutally honest.

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What did she come back with …
I loved it. But I think there are too many cakes. 
That was the first moment I knew that I had written something others would want to read. Not just trying my friends trying to work out who each character is based on. (Author’s disclaimer: this is a work of fiction. Any relation to characters living or dead is purely coincidental.)
Two nights ago my son was using my Mac to finish off something for school. Then suddenly he was standing in the doorway saying something about church, emotional and can’t believe you wrote that.
Oh damn, I thought, he’s been reading my manuscript for the sequel, Chocolates on My Pillow.
But no, he’d finished his assignment and had started reading Chocolates in the Ocean. He’d got to the point where Anne realises that not only is the guy who strung her along for 13 years marrying someone else, but he’s doing the deed in the church opposite her apartment! So the can’t-believe-you-wrote-that was a reference to some of the expletives that she used in that scene. He is only 10, after all.
So the first person who read the early manuscript was my mother. The first person to start reading the paperback was my son.
When I arrived at my summerhouse last night, I saw that my mother had left some old clothes she’d found on my bed. Just like she’d promised. But she’d also found the manuscript for the YA novel I wrote in my early twenties.
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It lay there staring up at me. The only version that still exists. Written pre-cloud in the days when we were still storing all our important info on CDs and floppy disks. My son grabbed it and started reading it. And quickly decided it wasn’t for him. (Which is good, he doesn’t need to know just how much time students spend drinking and how little time they spend doing any work.)
Then I started reading it. And I remembered why I loved it. And I missed the three amazing friends I spent all my time with my final year at university.
I don’t believe the author’s disclaimer can ever be 100% accurate. Not when we write what we know. We know different types of people. We’ve lived different experiences. Somewhere inside, every feeling, every dream, every frustrated desire, every heartache, comes together to produce a manuscript we send out into the world.
Each manuscript we write is a little piece of ourselves. Broken off and scattered down through the years like breadcrumbs in a forest, we go back and remember the people we were. How we changed as people, how we grew as writers.
That’s something I’ll be thinking about today while I push the lawnmower up and down the garden.
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