Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m a good technical editor, both avocationally and professionally. A
friend who served as a spiritual mentor to me asked me to review and
critique a book he has written, assuring me that it was a very rough
first draft and that he was just looking for general feedback, as in
“Should I go ahead with this project or not?” I read very little, but
enough to know that the writing was not merely bad but execrable. It’s
worse than “See Spot run!” because it goes on and on and on with
every minute action in real time. It violates the writer’s dictum “Show
don’t tell.” in every paragraph. I respect and like this guy. What can I
say? How can I be both kind and truthful?
If you are kind you will avoid words like execrable. You need to be
truthful enough for him to decide how much more energy he is willing
to expend in writing a second draft, one that, should he go ahead, you
will be honor-bound to read more thoroughly.
Here’s a rough intro to the convo: I appreciate the chance to be a
reviewer. It’s not just a rough first draft. It’s a micro-detailed outline
that you need to thoroughly revise for it to become literary. That will
take a huge amount of effort, but if you are up to the challenge, there
is a story and a message that seems important to you to convey.
Here’s where I would start: Consider joining a writer’s group. It won’t
be a waste of time, which I know will be your first response. Instead
you will have access to the struggles of others like yourself. Before you
join the group, do the following exercise: map every scene in the book
as an action. Then decide on perhaps thirty key scenes. All the other
interactions should get folded into them as casual references or short
flashbacks. Let your characters tell you who is the true protagonist and
write from that person’s point of view. If you need multiple viewpoints
you can do them in draft three. Think about the amount of time this
will take; assume a year. If you are willing to do that, move forward. If
not, let yourself off the hook. Only your time and passion will make
this better enough.