Pam’s Manuscript Critique

My heart pounds out an irregular rhythm. I try but fail to suck in one of those deep, cleansing breaths that are supposed to be so calming. Short gulps of air are all I can manage. Sweat breaks out on my forehead. My limbs feel heavy, immobile. Job interview? Nightmare? Am I being chased by zombies, werewolves, or vampires? No to all of the above. It’s only the critique of my new manuscript, about to begin any second. I’m waiting for that one person to say, “I’ll start.”

It’s so difficult to send a manuscript out into the world. I always fall in love with the characters and think the story is perfect. Well, maybe not perfect. Bound to be a few flaws here and there, but nothing that won’t be a quick fix! I steel myself, waiting to hear what everyone thinks. I’m grateful that the critique is taking place at a gorgeous home in the mountains above Boulder. We’re sitting in a “great” room, the last golden light of fall streaming in from the French doors.

And so it begins. Everyone starts with words of praise, because our group is respectful, caring, nurturing. There’s not a single person present who doesn’t want to help me improve my manuscript and ultimately reach my goal of becoming a published writer. As with any group of writers, the thought processes differ wildly. (There’s a reason we call ourselves the Wild Folk!) Some see the big picture. Others focus on detail. There are the “outside the box” thinkers who suggest new turns the plot might take. Several people point out characters who need further development, aspects of the story that don’t make sense, and in the case of this book, an ending that simply doesn’t work. I’m busy taking notes and asking questions, trying to understand and decide if the various suggestions fit with my vision of the book.

Of course, I can’t really do that until I’ve given myself time to process everything. Since the critique, which was on October 4, the manuscripts have been stacked on my dining room table. I’ve read through everyone’s comments and charted the “issues” mentioned most frequently. I’ve spoken privately with some members of the group who I thought could help clarify certain points. Slowly, I’m working my way through each manuscript and taking note of comments written in the margins. As many of us in our critique group are frequently heard to say, “Writing is hard work!”

Now I’m trying to pluck up the courage to begin the re-write. Frankly, I’m scared to death.

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