This past Thanksgiving weekend the family traveled down to Monroe, La. to see my family and then continued down to Baton Rouge for the LSU - Arkansas game. The food was awesome, the company entertaining, and the game . . . victorious (GEAUX TIGERS!).
From where we live in Arkansas it's a 4 hour drive to Monroe, and another 4 hours down to Baton Rouge. Our usual habits when driving as a family is the two older kids jam in their ear-buds and listen to music on their IPods, the youngest either watches DVD's on a portable player or plays games on his DSi, and the wife reads a book. If a DVD isn't playing, I listen to the radio, but if it is, I'm forced to listen to a movie I can't watch.
Just before we pulled out of the driveway an idea popped into my head. I had been looking for a way to jump-start the process of going through the final edit on my manuscript, and maybe I could kill two birds with one book. I wasn't sure if the family would go along with it, because it meant some sacrifice on their parts, but I decided to pitch the idea to them anyway. What if everybody took turns reading a chapter of my book as we drove (except me of course - duh), critiquing along the way?
Surprisingly, everybody was up for the idea. The ten year old didn't want to read aloud, but he would offer opinions. So down the road we went, driving and critiquing. At the end of every chapter I took the opportunity to quiz them about plot points, motivations, character development, sub-text, etc. My wife jotted down notes for suggestions they came up with and each individual reader highlighted sentences that needed work as they read.
Between the two drives we managed to cover eight chapters. We didn't do any reading on the way back because nobody was in the mood, but I'm still pleased with the progress I made. I'm also glad that we did it as a family. It was a great experience and SO VERY HELPFUL. I hope we can do something like that again.
So, if your a writer and struggling with your book, may I suggest that you take a drive with your family. Both your work, and your relationship, will be better for it.