For the past few years, while I’ve been busy writing, I’ve also been reading and giving feedback on manuscripts by other writers. I’ve worked on manuscripts written by established, illustrious authors and on others by writers just starting out. It’s work I hugely enjoy; analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript and suggesting areas an author might like to think about in order to make it better.
I’ve always paid close attention to how a work of art achieves its effect and this probably stems from my father, who loved the arts and viewed all artistic endeavour with a passionate, sensitive, but hyper critical eye. I remember discussing books and paintings and films with him from a very young age. I’d come out of the cinema, or close the covers of a book, eyes brimming with tears, or heart full of joy, only for him to turn to me and ask if I didn’t think the story line was a little weak, or the ending a cop-out, or that the characters lacked substance.
It didn’t matter whether it was Fellini or Disney, Tolstoy or Dr Seuss, his critical scalpel was always razor sharp and he never condescended to me and my own critical facility.
His standards for my artistic endeavours were incredibly high. I remember him coaching me in the role of Shylock for my school production. He wanted me to forgo all the hammy acting my teacher had instilled and aim for something more real and true. At the age of eleven. I tried, but when performing on stage, with my teacher hamming it up in the wings, demanding I give it more bluff and bluster, I couldn’t help but go along with her. I remember afterwards my dad telling me what a disappointment it was.
His criticism wasn’t driven by cruelty, but by passion. There should be no compromise or laziness in the pursuit of art, at whatever level. This was a man who cried only three times in his adult life, one of them being when he first laid eyes on Michelangelo’s David.
For me, it’s a privilege and pleasure to be entrusted with other people’s work and I always try to give constructive, supportive, but honest feedback.
If you’re interested in making use of my service at any point, the link to my website is here.