A Third Opinion

In life, get a second opinion (or, in this case a third opinion). In my latest book project (See, the Dark Harp), I’ve read through the finished manuscript at least ten times over now.  And then ten times more.  That’s what writers do.

  1. Write.
  2. Sprint to the finish (I put a self-imposed deadline in place, always good to have one. Be it a deadline for editor, place in overall timeline, etc.,).
  3. Read draft.
  4. Ruthlessly edit.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Repeat ten more times.
  7. Repeat again until you hate the project or you think you have an amazing work of art.

For this work (after doing said steps), I read it aloud to my kid. He’s my test bed for this project. At first, it was rather cringe inducing. When you read, you think something you wrote sounds a certain way. Well, most of the time it doesn’t sound that way. No matter what you think. It just doesn’t. For a work of 100,000+ words, it might be tough to read it in front of a mirror. But for a children’s book, it is a necessity. That’s the point. Children’s literature is meant to be to a kid. One wonders how many times Charlotte’s Web has been read out loud. Think of all the classrooms. Parents reading to their children in bed. Kids reciting “Some Pig” in their sleep. Stories spread. That’s their magic.

And I had someone else read my magnum opus of a children’s book-nothing wrong with that.

So, when I handed it over to my editor I felt like I had a lean and mean book already. There probably wasn’t much cutting to be had. In the early drafts of my first book, I freely admit I had too much description. Not the good kind. Way too detailed. Jeff opened the refrigerator. He looked at the four types of jam. Stood there, paralyzed on which to choose. Would it be strawberry? Cherry? Peach? Or marmalade? The label says the marmalade was canned in Michigan. Why would I choose that? I want the oranges to come from a Florida farmer, not somewhere in South America. No marmalade, not today. Jeff grabbed the strawberry jam. He twisted the lid. It didn’t budge. He twisted harder.

You get the idea. Well, in this lean and mean draft I found I didn’t describe much. This wasn’t good either. And I made some glaring what I like to call rookie mistakes. I changed the POV (point of view) twice. My scary monsters violated their own rules of engagement (read The Things You Cannot See). How could I miss these? Yet, I did. I wasn’t happy. Writing equals frustration.

It’s amazing what a second set of eyes can catch (or third in this case). That’s why it’s good to get a second opinion. You should do this in anything.

  • Work.
  • Important emails (the importance determines the amount of repetition in steps above).
  • Project plans.
  • Chess openings.
  • Home improvement projects (especially, kitchen remodels).
  • Car purchase.
  • Investments.
  • Kid’s activities to try (karate, dance, baseball, junior football league, etc.,)
  • Code development.
  • Anniversary Presents (especially, if you are buying a vacuum cleaner).
  • Career (multiple mentors are a must).

In writing, if you can find someone who knows your flow, is good at the craft (this isn’t their first rodeo), and can be objective it’s worth so much. Yes, I read my early drafts 10+ times. I read it out loud. I had someone else read it and then edited it again. This means I’m probably too close to it. Sigh.

After seeing all the scratch marks from my editor, it snapped me out of my “too close to my own work” spell. Feedback does that. It’s an amazing experience to open your eyes and revisit a work. Because once you see the problems, laid out in writer’s code, it helps get you in the groove again (or flow state, this is the trendy word of the day).

And so, I start writing again. And yes, there will be a third opinion. Perfection is unattainable. That’s the beauty of it. But why not try. Here we go. Let’s do this.

Status Check, Well, I’m getting closer. As this post describes, I finished an extensive line edit. I almost sent it off for review but then decided to read it to my kid out loud again. In doing this, I made a few changes/additions. Once completed, I’ll probably do another read through before getting that third opinion. Still, I’m getting closer. The Dark Harp is coming.

And this is another one of those famous pictures that my kid painted. You can check it out on Cloudup too. Kind of cool, huh? Oh, and the heading picture is too.