The Professional Says…

I’ve been neglecting my blog for other things lately, mainly life,
and the guilt is eating at me. But you won’t hear me whine about it
here! I’ve got too much going on to waste some of it whining. So let me jump into what’s going on over here in Olympia. I sent the first 48 pages of my baby–excuse me, my manuscript–off to a professional editor. Glad I put on my thick skin the morning his response showed up in my email in-box!

For those who’ve never asked a professional editor offer feedback on your writing, you are missing out. This man doesn’t know me personally, and therefore had no reservations about speaking the truth regarding my writing skills and my story plot line. He offered praise when I deserved it, and tore apart everything that stunk. Unfortunately, there was plenty of stinkage in my manuscript (sigh). And while everything he said reflected exclusively on my work, the concepts he pointed out are valuable for any writer who desires to improve in the craft. So I’d like to share them with you and let you experience, for no money down, the wisdom of professional editor Jeff Gerke from Where the Map Ends and Marcher Lord Press. (BTW, Thank You Jeff, for your awesome evaluation! I know my next draft is tons better because of your comments.) So, without further ado, here are the major problems in my manuscript, as pointed out by Mr. Gerke:

#1. I broke the first rule of writing, in that I had a lot of TELLING as opposed to SHOWING. Silly me, I thought I’d mastered that skill, yet Mr. Gerke found not only sentences but entire paragraphs of pure telling. His advice: pretend I’m making a movie, and only write what
the camera can “see” and the microphone can “hear.” That way, I’ll
break free from the internal monologues, flashbacks, and outright
exposition. The reader will appreciate this, since he won’t be sucked
out of the story to read some bit of history or ponder the inner
musings of an indecisive protagonist.

#2. I had too many unbelievable things happening in my plot, so much
so that the reader could no longer suspend his disbelief. In other
words, my story wasn’t realistic. The protagonist did and said things
which should have netted a certain response from those around him,
and instead, I offered different consequences and responses that
weren’t realistic. I’ve got to fix this immediately or the reader
won’t want to read the next chapter. Or the second book of the series.

#3. My protagonist wasn’t likable. In fact, Mr. Gerke called my
protagonist “an arrogant twit” and “despicable.” Of all the comments,
this one hurt the most. My poor Alex, my beloved protagonist, is a
jerk? He’s not sympathetic? He’s not adorable? How could anyone NOT love him? But I re-read those 48 pages, trying to see Alex from Mr. Gerke’s point of view, and he was dead on. Alex was pretty nasty. In my own defense, since no one’s here to stop me from blathering on about it, I originally wrote Alex as an arrogant young man, knowing that I’d have him humbled and brought back to reality somewhere in the first three chapters. But I can’t do that. The reader must love Alex, or at least sympathize with him, from the beginning, or they’ll throw the book aside and reach for the tv remote long before they come to the place where Alex is an okay guy. And he does turn out to be a great guy, I’ve just got to show this from the beginning.

Mr. Gerke’s evaluation went on for six more pages, tearing apart
words, sentences, even entire paragraphs, pointing out every mistake
I’d managed to put on paper. The three listed above were the biggest
no-no’s I committed, but I’ve got plenty more to share with you. I’ll
do so in my next blog entry. In the mean time, check out
WhereTheMapEnds.com, go to Tools For Writers, and click on the Tip of the Week. These pages contain a plethora of wisdom. I’ve read through them all at least four times, and I still learn something new every time I go back. Now if I could just get all that wisdom into my manuscript!

-Sonja

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