Thursday, September 3, 2009

Manuscript Editing

I have been asking a few of my friends who are not history geeks to read over a manuscript I have been putting together about the Cane Creek Massacre. To be honest, letting other people read it has been a painful experience. I know that sounds odd coming from a person who writes a blog, but somehow print media is different than online publishing.

The first person who read it was at one point a professional editor. I asked her to be brutally honest, and she was. It needs a bit of work. But her advice was invaluable. Among other things, I need to help the reader care about the people whose story I am telling. There are a lot of details, and a lot of people moving in and out of the story. I know who they are, but the reader probably doesn't. And my editor friend certainly didn't. She said that as she was reading it she didn't know why she should care about the various people. She knew nothing about them. They weren't real to her.

That is part of what I was afraid of, and why I haven't asked others who already know a bit about the events to take look at it.

The second person who read it was a fiction writer. She was much kinder about the problems with the manuscript, which was a little disappointing, but said some similar things. She felt I didn't give the reader a chance to get to know the people before the conflict started. I had placed biographies of each of the people involved at the back of the book. She feels that is too late. She suggested merging their individual stories into the narrative.

Do any of you have advice about writing a manuscript? Perhaps obsevations about the nuanced differences between online publishing and print media.


Susan W H said...

Bruce--you are lucky to have someone with editorial experience to look at your manuscript. Thanks for this post because the suggestions you have will be helpful for me. At some point I plan on hiring a professional to look over my manuscript. I wish I could offer suggestions, but I not as far along yet. I have a terrible time getting feedback from my own family and friends that I ask to read my family history biographies.

Are you going to submit a proposal for next year's MHA conference? Deadline is October 1. Presenting at a conference is supposed to be a good way to generate interest in your book or manuscript. I am working on a proposal for the first time.

BruceCrow said...

As much as I love my family, they are just not that interested in reading over my stuff. Which is fine. The feedback would be biased anyway.

I am planning on submitting a proposal for MHA too. It will be my first as well.