Two days ago I was given two gifts, one lovely, one less so.
The first was my manuscript, fully critiqued and annotated by my alpha reader.
The second was a rollicking bout of of the flu, a parting gift from the final session with one of my students.
So I spent all of yesterday lying on the couch, trying to move as little as possible, while my husband brought me various sick-people things: wet washcloths, hot food, buckets of water with a handy straw so I only had to turn my head a few millimeters at most. What I really wanted to be doing was hacking into my manuscript, invigorated by the perspective of my alpha reader.
When the crit first winged its digital way into my electronic mailbox, I was terrified to open it. The sensitive pink creative psyche that I have vulcanized in a crust of flippancy and sarcasm was spinning out an endless thread of the most horrific criticism imaginable. Then I told myself to suck it up, opened the file, and stayed up way too late reading the overall impressions at the end of each chapter (then scrolling back to read the in-line notes).
It wasn’t so bad! It was kind of great really. Unlike a visual arts critique (of which I’ve had more than my fill), with a critique of writing no one is standing right there commenting on your mental health, worldview, and skill level. If something hits a soft spot, you can close the file. Get a drink. Grab the bootstraps and open it up again.
Let me say at this point that nothing in the notes jabbed me in a soft spot.
There were certain things about my characters that weren’t reading as clearly as I wanted, and it was invaluable to have someone not me letting me know how they came across. There were scenes that needed more strength of purpose, some that could be moved, one that should be fractured and re-absorbed elsewhere. There was one glaring problem that made the book an entirely different story than I had intended.
I didn’t agree with every suggestion, and I feel comfortable enough with my alpha reader to discuss them further. There is nothing going awry in this manuscript that I can’t fix.
Fix sort of easily, in fact.
A few days ago I was floundering in my edits, going line by line and getting more hopeless by the minute. My crit partner has given me direction, and my floundering has led me to Scrivener.
I know what I’m doing.