I while ago I agreed to review a manuscript for someone, lets call her Melinda*. She had a completed novel that she was about to produce as a serial podcast. How exciting! I love the different ways you can get your work out there.
She asked specifically for help with her grammar. Well, I can do that, grammar thug that I am. I read the first chapter through to get a feel for her style and for the story.
Then I closed the document, untouched, and sent it back to her with the following note.
I have read the first chapter of your manuscript, but there’s no point going further. Grammar is not what you need to work on. I’m going to be honest here, because I don’t think being ‘nice’ is going to help you improve.
That first chapter was nothing more than a catalogue of actions. There was no hook. There was no character development. There was nothing there to draw the reader in and make them want to read on.
There are many useful sites out there to help you learn the craft of writing. Take the time to read around and learn. I’m sure there’s a very interesting story buried in your manuscript somewhere, but it needs a lot of work to come out.
Do you think I was harsh? Arrogant perhaps? Well, maybe I was. Maybe there are readers out there who would love to hear about the heroine waking up, having a shower, going downstairs, eating cheerios, feeding her pets (all named) and heading off to work. That was the first chapter. I was bored after the first sentence.
Needless to say I didn’t hear back, and I’ve no idea whether the writer is going ahead with her podcast or not.
The incident percolated in my subconscious for a few days, and then bubbled up into my conscious mind. I am a dweller, and I dwelled. I got angry. Then morose. Then depressed.
Apathy hit. I opened my manuscript, stared at it for a while, then closed it, untouched. I listened to my characters talk at each other, their mouths full of sand. The scene cooled and died and left a flaccid corpse on the page and the characters crawled over it like shiny carrion beetles.
I want to have Melinda’s confidence. I want to be able to write pages and pages of words and not have to deal with the knowledge that my work is not good enough, is never good enough, will never be good enough to satisfy the gape-toothed inner critic who sweats her vile excretions into my mind. You’re no good. You’re no good. You’ll never be any good any good anygoodanygoodanygoodanygoodnevernevernevernevernevernevernevernever…
Melinda has a finished manuscript. She thinks it’s good enough to make into a podcast. She has the confidence to showcase her work, confidence that it’s good enough.
That’s what I want.
One cup of confidence, please, and a side order of bug spray.
* Not her real name. Not even close, so don’t try to figure out who she is.