This will make me sound like a total geek, but I got extra homework! Yippee! Okay, I probably am a total geek, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been happy to get extra homework before.

When it comes to revising my novel, though, I am genuinely excited. After turning in my initial homework—outline, book summary, manuscript audit and first 30 pages—I expected to wait a week or so before hearing anything back.

So Jennie’s email asking for more surprised me. Plus gave me a thrill that someone—anyone—had read part of my novel. Plus triggered uneasiness about what a person whose insight I trust will find.

Jacquard, the protagonist of my novel, experiences a transformation when she enters the woods. She calls it her greenness because, among other things, it turns her skin green. Jennie asked me to answer some questions about greenness and get back to her with a page of bullet points. Some of the questions she asked had ready answers, but others pointed to areas where the worldbuilding is not fleshed out, or not quite clear. Everything about greenness is central to my narrative and to Jacquard’s character. Answering Jennie’s questions sparked some new possibilities, which is always exciting.

Making a list of bullet points to dig deeper into a particular aspect of the story is a technique I expect to use again in the future. It lets you focus on something specific that isn’t quite right. Knowing what questions to ask is a trick though. Having another person share the questions that arise for them is just what I need right now—an outside perspective.

In anticipation of meeting with Jennie next week, I plan to gather my questions for her. Though I expect to have additional questions after receiving her feedback, I want to make sure I don’t later forget the questions I already have.

Have you ever been happy to get unexpected homework?

Jennie Nash is the founder of Author Accelerator, which matches writers with book coaches.

My work with Jennie is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org).

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