Monday, December 14, 2009

What does Princess Amidala have to do with it?

I only gave out my manuscript to two people for this first round of crits. I don’t know exactly why I have been keeping this a secret. I think I didn’t want them to feel like the burden fell on them quite so much. Maybe it makes me seem vulnerable relying so heavily on just two people. But here was my plan. I was going to send it out to one person who had never read it. And to Andy who has read the whole thing in small pieces. From those two I would find out how it stood up all-together, no one had read it in one fell swoop. But my reader who didn’t know my work, I didn’t know his reading style and still don't. I know the books he likes, ones that I like too, but I don’t know how he reads. And this is critical in a reader. You want to play t peoples strength. You don't want to torture people who are doing a kind thing for you (sorry if I am!). I myself, tend to read for the big swoop. I read for themes and arches and pace but my grad school girlfriends(at least two of them anyway) read for line editing closeness, so I was saving them for after this reading. Perhaps that is also why I was being so private with my reader choices. I’m hording. My strategic plan is suspect. Am I just using this early group? Honestly I’m not sure Rachel and Terri could get past my f—ked up prose. I am a herky-jerky writer at times (have you already noticed?) and that makes the reading uncomfortable. Then, after my line editing readers, I have a couple teen readers and my librarian reader friend offered. And the list goes on (I think).
But, one of my writer-readers got back to me last night. And the short report is the book changes in some critical way around chapter six (I haven’t seen the marked up draft yet. I will by the time my sister comes home. She is the draft passer, like it's some sort of illicit substance that makes its way through the underground to my reader’s doorstep and then back again.) Reader Andy says the manuscript chugs along nicely and then something happens and it becomes too chewy compared to how tenderly it began (those are nearly his words if not exactly his words). And the last two chapters are nice again but because the substance in the middle is so hard to digest, the end loses some of it’s effect.

Okay. I hear that. Since I was really worried about not being able to get the beginning up to snuff, this is feedback I can work with. I’m scared to look at his marked up draft now that I know this. I read last night that too much information can really bog down your amygdala(this word always makes me think of Princess Amidala and it’s kind of nice to picture someone so calm and regal as Natalie Portman at the front of your brain making the decisions). I’m reading/skimming How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. I seriously want to make the hard decisions. Take a slash and burn approach to these words and cut my manuscript into something that works. Make it run like a cheetah (Andy DID say cheetah). I want to read it myself and see how the change feels to my eyes, before getting to the nitty-gritty, of which I am sure there is plenty. I'd like to focus on that simple piece of the equation, changing the big thing that is broke,  maybe it is as simple as cutting out something extraneous. I’m not sure that I can do this well. But thankfully I have had time to get some distance.

As Always (Any advice on reading your own manuscript???),