THE PROTECTOR: the official, professional verdict

I got my critique – earlier than expected. I saw it sitting in my inbox and had sweaty palms instantly. I stared at it for a minute – it’s what I do when query replies come in, too. There is always that knee-jerk reaction of panic. What if they liked it? What if they didn’t?

You might think that receiving a negative response would be the bigger deal – as in more devastating. I’ve received my share of negative responses, and I find that they are not that difficult to deal with. I file them, and that’s that.

But what if they liked it? Now that’s a scary thought. Sure, it’s what I want. But my over-analytical brain immediately thinks ahead: I wrote this book on my own time, will I manage to work through the necessary revisions and meet the publisher-imposed deadline that’s inevitable? Can I write a second book, a third and fourth or will it become obvious that all I had in me was one book? Hell, will the reading public like what I wrote enough to even warrant a second book? Can I handle the sophomore pressure?

You see:

Creative writing is a harrowing business, a terrifying commitment to an absolute. This is it, the writer must say to himself, and I must stand or fall upon what I have put down. The degree of self-exposure is crucifying. And doubt is a constant companion. What if I am not as good as I thought, is a question that always nags, and can cripple. [Walter Kerr]

True. Very, very true. It was easy sending THE PROTECTOR off. Nothing to it. Clicking on the resulting reply in my in-box, opening the critique and reading it, that was hard.

If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage. [Cynthia Ozick]

But that’s not what you really want to know, is it? You are as interested in the official verdict as I was.

Here it is:

First and foremost, you were right – this novel is fun. The characters are larger than life (fitter than life, prettier than life, more bumbling than life, depending upon whether good or bad) and the asides are gems. Your timing is spot on and the location lovely and exotic. The details are visual and not at all tedious. (Tediousness in details is a common trap and you deftly avoided it.) Official critique: I’d say it’s a good book.

The tension between Mason and Soren is just right, and Mrs. George is a delight; the telling of the entire tale is lighthearted without crossing to cartoonishness. I do like it all very much.

Bravo on a wonderfully readable novel with series potential (mention that last in your cover letters), and thank you for the chance to see your words again.

My pleasure.

Sometimes courage pays off.

As does scrutinizing every word and slaving over single sentences for hours:

All that is good about this novel’s structure – arc, tense, grammar, carefully streamlined sentences – make what needs fixing nearly insignificant. “Nearly,” because the little things count, of course.

(I was going to cut and paste the section of the critique that goes into the things that need fixing: dangling participles, some redundancies and the occasional conjuring of odd inadvertent mental pictures. But the whole list with page numbers for reference would make little sense here.)

There was even proof that detail-oriented, fastidious Nadja can completely miss something:

The radio announcer (re the storm) is lovely and perky and pretty by turns and in the middle of all that is “the weatherman.”

Oops. And how many times have I read the darn thing?!

What I liked best, though, was this part – an echo of what I’ve heard already (and posted in an earlier entry):

…as you can see, all of this and the rest a line edit would pick up are easy to spot, easy to fix. You are most capable of this yourself. You write with humor and a feel for the language, so I don’t recommend you go with a friend (a picky friend) or an editing service such as ours* unless you are pressed for time, have seen the manuscript so often you’d rather read the dictionary than it one more time, or you just wish that second set of eyes and the suggestions that come in the details…



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