Golf Courses, Swiss Cheese, and Manuscripts
In the form of a question please: What are full of holes?
I recently reviewed an early reader draft of a fellow writer’s latest manuscript. He’s more on the Sci-Fi side than Fantasy, and this is the second one of his manuscripts he’s asked me to critique as an Alpha reader. I’ve gotta tell you, this friend of mine is a smart guy. He’s published at least half-dozen novels in at least three different genres. He knows how to tell a story, and I enjoy reading his early drafts. Yet when I gave him feedback on his latest last week, he dropped me a note about one of the issues I’d found. It was no big deal, and not especially critical, just an odd plot pattern in the storyline that I was certain he’d want to fix. I’d thought the issue was obvious, but he’d been completely taken by surprise.
I’ve also been doing quite a bit of online critiques in the Online Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy, a web-critique group. Writers post their stories and chapters and the members provide objective critiques. Even the most ‘mature’, publication-ready shorts stories and manuscripts can have plot holes.
Likewise, I got the FATE manuscript back from the freelance editor with her comments a couple of days ago. I’ve read that manuscript at least a dozen times, and had feedback from four different readers, yet she found hole after hole in my so-called ‘final draft’. And this wasn’t subtle stuff either. Like when the bad guy has the protagonist at his mercy and she doesn’t fight back. Duh! Or when the timeline goes backwards. Toh!
The fact is, a writer cannot always find all the holes in his/her own manuscript. We’re not stupid, or careless, we just don’t see them. We get too close. This is why we need as many nit-picky early readers as possible. And don’t think editing is only about spelling and grammar, either (thanks, Lorin!). Plot holes are an anathema to any writer. Every time someone points out mine, I slap my forehead and thank my lucky stars; grateful to have had someone point them out to me before the manuscript flies out the door. Back to work!