That manuscript still isn’t perfect yet? – Part Three of my Manuscript Critique

You might be sick of reading about my numerous critique experiences. I know I’m tired of rewriting the manuscript.

Remember I mentioned rewriting the first pages of this manuscript. That rewrite was for a class given by Kristen Lamb.

If you don’t follow her blog, I suggest you follow this link and sign up. If you need to learn about craft or building an author platform, I suggest her classes and her book, Rise of the Machine-Human Authors in a Digital World.

Having met Kristen’s red pen before, I expected a good ripping from her. Good thing I had that sand-papery experience with Ms. Hughes to toughen my sensitive writer’s psyche, right? And don’t forget my friend Becky lambasting what I considered a polished manuscript.

First of all, Kristen called me on the phone to talk about my initial beginning. “Too much telling. Show me how crappy her life is” was the gist of that conversation.

Immediately, I sat down and cranked out a new beginning. I let it sit overnight and then reread it. Not quite where I wanted it to be, so I tweaked it and completely junked the first sentence. After one more go-through, I sent it off to Jedi Master Lamb.

Her response: “Here you go. Much better but watch the 1) odd sentence construction 2) too much physiology and 3) brain-holding.”

You know what rocked me the most about this short and sweet statement? She mentioned the odd sentence construction which was something Alex Hughes also noted. My. Sentences. Suck.

Epiphany: No matter what you think about your sentences, Shari, they are constructed in a way that obscures your meaning.

Time to stop trying to write with variety and just put the words down on the page. Say what you mean to say, Shari. Nothing more. Nothing less. And certainly nothing fancy.

If you’ve taken many creative writing classes, perhaps you have a voice in your head that says “Another subject-verb-object construction? Boring!” According to the professionals who critiqued my manuscript, I need to duct tape this person’s mouth closed and throw her in the basement with my inner editor.

On to number two. What does she mean about “physiology”? Do I have too much heart-pounding? I know there were a few areas where Alex said “choose one” about physical responses. I think Master Lamb is nailing me for the same thing.

Less heart pounding for the character and more for the reader. Got it.

“Brain-holding” stumped me. Given the context, it is obviously something in my writing style. Is she talking about over-explaining? Or am I spending too much time inside the character’s mind? I don’t know.

What do you think? I know you didn’t get to read the pages, but since she didn’t mark them so I knew where I was doing the “brain-holding” I don’t know if seeing them would help.

What is brain-holding in regards to a manuscript? Do you have problems with any of these three areas? How do you improve going forward when someone has pointed out shortfalls in your writing?

3 thoughts on “That manuscript still isn’t perfect yet? – Part Three of my Manuscript Critique

  1. Oh my gosh, I’ll NEVER get tired of hearing about this…you could write 20 more posts and I’d read each and every stinkin’ one of them. Not that *they* stink, cuz they don’t.

    “Brain-holding.” That’s a stumper. My first thought is “brain-holding” means telling the reader what to think, giving them too much information, or spelling it out with so many letters that they don’t have to use their own brains to figure it out.

    I equate it to the “hand-holding” I’m often expected to do in my day-job, which means doing all the work for people who are more than capable of doing it themselves. I HATE that because I’m big on holding people accountable for their own crap. Brain = thinking, so that’s how I got there.

    Also, at least as far as your blog posts are concerned, I think your sentence structure is clear and concise. Maybe you use a different voice in your fiction. Maybe you should take more of your “Shari” voice and put it into your fiction and your sentence structure would work itself out.

    I could be completely wrong about all of this and I haven’t eaten for a few hours so it’s entirely possible I’m incoherent. But there’s my two cents!

    Please write more about your MS critique—I for one will be waiting impatiently. 🙂

    1. I thought a similar thing about brain-holding, but without a specific example marked in the manuscript, I didn’t know when I was doing that. I will scratch my head and study it more closely when I return to that manuscript to finish the rewrite.
      Right now – I’m at the exciting part in my current story. There are dragons fighting and clever teenagers helping save the world.
      I may share the feedback I get on this book. I won a 20,000 word read through and critique from Jami Gold. It will be November at least before this novel will be ready for other eyes.
      As always, thanks for commenting.

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