I recently had a published author offer to read one of my manuscripts. I was scared/happy about the whole thing. What if he hated it? What if he told me the thing blew chunks? What if he NEVER responded? Sure, he’s just another human like the rest of us, but this dude has three books in the bookstores RIGHT NOW. But hey, any time a person who’s already made it past so many of the hurddles writers have to get by, is willing to read your (amateur) writing, you jump at it. It’s not often you can get someone who is “in” the business to stop from his hectic life to help someone who is trying to get into the business. This would be like Dave Matthews offering to listen to a tape of your music.
But he did offer to read it. And I am forever thankful for this. It’s like he’s paying it forward, but in reverse. If that makes any sense. Honestly, I think he’s just a good guy and someone who wants to help others.
So I mailed him the manuscript (snailmail) with the caveat that he was pretty busy and wasn’t really sure when he was going to get to it. I told him, no worries. Whenever is great. Just the fact that he asked for it….well, you get the picture.
He got it in the mail, and sent me an email telling me he received the package, in record time, no less. I pegged it arriving around mid week, but it got there on Monday.
He told me he would get to it and I said thanks and then I tucked the entire thing into the back of my mind. No reason to fret every day. (Why are we writers so damn needy!?)
Well, he responded yesterday. I saw the email come in, but was too terrified to read it. What if he told me he only got to page 100 and then had to put it down because it sucked so bad he couldn’t waste more time?! What if he told me I shouldn’t quit my day job? What if, what if, what if. Why am I such a woose!!!
So, I gathered up my courage and opened the email. If you think my heart was hammering and my hand shook, you’re spot on. (sorry for passive voice there!)
I read it through, fast. I normally read pretty fast, but I slammed through this sucker, hoping for the best, prepared for the worst. I shook even more, after I read it.
Here are some comments from him about the story:
Kudos, my friend! I read your manuscript over the past few days. Got to it sooner that expected, and finished it wayyy faster than I do most. That’s a testament to your writing skills, because with all the reading I do, reading stuff that doesn’t stand up feels like a chore.
From top to bottom, a terrific story.
I especially enjoyed the well-placed twists. I was surprised by the revelation, yet thought to myself: “I should have known.” That is precisely the reaction an author should hope for when he pulls a dramatic twist like that.
I also loved your [redacted–hey read the story!] , giving us a ticking clock from the outset. Way to add a sense of urgency to the adventure. And speaking of that, you do a masterful job of keeping the action moving, and ending each scene with a teaser that propels us into the next. Hard to ever find a place to stop reading.
From an editorial standpoint… well, I don’t have much, actually. The overall structure is solid, the pacing intense throughout, and the payoff is unexpected yet satisfying — difficult to pull off when you close with a cliffhangar.
Don’t get me wrong. If I were your editor, I would still have red marks on every page for minor things. That’s just the way this process works. Unfortunately, I don’t have the necessary time to dig that deep. Nor would I presume to do so, since, when you’re at that level of professional quality, no two people’s notes are apt to be the same.
And then he goes on to give some constructive critisism, which is priceless, but I have not included it because it gives a lot of the story away.
Here’s what he concluded with:
Believe it or not, that’s about all I had. Like I said, you’ve written a great book. If there are any specific questions you have for me… anything you want to run by me to see what my reaction was… let me know. I know that I always have a few parts I’m unsure about, and that only readers can confirm worked or not. Other than that, thanks for letting me read it. And best of luck in this difficult publishing market! I look forward to seeing this and other volumes of yours on the bookshelves someday soon.
I was so elated after reading this, I hopped up from my desk and milled about the office for a while, glad-handing anyone within arms reach (they had no idea why I was in such a good mood.)
So, overall not bad!!! The issues he brought up were spot on, and his feedback was perfect! (Over 9 long paragraphs!)
I am now stuck though…what to do next? a) make the minor changes he recommends, send off query letters? b) send off as if? I mean, if he liked, someone else should too, right? c) Think more and work on another story.
So, I am in a good place today, appreciating the feeback and anticipating the future.