If you haven’t read February 5 yet, you can do so here.

If you stumbled onto this post by accident and haven’t read any of the other stories, head over to this post to find out more about this project.

“Thanks so much for meeting with me again. And for taking a look at my work.” Cleo slid into the seat opposite Ruby in the cafe. She had already ordered one of the fantastic lime milkshakes, even if she was disappointed to see no sign of Poppy behind the counter. 

“Of course. Should we get straight into it?”

Cleo nodded, for days she’d had butterflies in her stomach as she wondered what Ruby thought of her work. She’d never let anyone else read it. Not even her best friend. 

“Well, first off, I’ve written up a list of book recommendations for you based on areas I think you could improve.”

Cleo smiled, eager to hear what the rest of the advice was as she took the slip of paper from Ruby. Perfect rounded lettering filled every line. At least 10 books for her to read. 

“Now, I want you to remember that these suggestions don’t mean your writing is bad, and also, I’m not an editor, I’ve just written a lot.”

Cleo nodded, bracing herself for bad news. 

“Even I have an editor telling me where I need to work on things,” she paused. “In your case, there are quite a few things to work on.”

“Okay, I figured that much.” Cleo steeled herself for what was coming next. She’d expected it, but a part of her still hoped she’d have some amazing novel that was perfect right out the gate.

“Look, you need to grab your reader’s attention immediately. Like, page one. They won’t keep reading to page two if you don’t. Someone told me once, the only job of page one is to get someone to flip the page and read page two. Your page one literally just has someone waking up and getting the newspaper. Boring.”

Cleo let out the breath she’d been holding in slow shuddery motions. She fought back tears. 

Ruby continued as if she hadn’t noticed Cleo’s discomfort. “I don’t want to be mean, but your characters kind of need work too. I know this was only a chapter, but I just don’t care about them.”

Tears slid down Cleo’s face, she tried to hold them back but couldn’t. 

“Look, I think you should come to my writing course. We start in a couple of weeks. You’ll get a lot from it I think. I’ll send you a few more notes by email. I can see you’re upset.” 

Ruby looked to Cleo with something resembling understanding, but there was something else too. 

“If you want to put your stuff out in the world, people are going to say way crueler things than this. They may not do it to be mean, but you’re going to need to toughen up if you want to survive in this industry.”

With that, Ruby rose from the table and disappeared from the cafe, just as Cleo’s lime milkshake was delivered to the table. 

You can read February 7 here.

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