Have I confused anyone yet? If you’re a fan of “The Big Bang Theory,” you might remember Sheldon using Erwin Schrödinger’s thought experiment when both Penny and Leonard, wondering if they should follow through on a date, asked him for advice. (We’ll just skip over the fact that Sheldon would be one of the last people I’d ask for relationship advice….) In short, “Schrödinger’s Cat” refers to a cat that’s been sealed in a box with a vial of poison. Also in the box are a radioactive material and a monitor. The vial of poison is set up to shatter when a single radioactive particle decays and is recorded by the monitor. According to Schrödinger, as long as the box remains sealed, the cat is both alive AND dead at the same time. It’s only by opening the box that the cat is either alive OR dead. We’ll leave the physics discussion here and not get into the complexities of quantum mechanics, which was the real focus of the thought experiment. (As if I could discuss them intelligently!)
So what the heck does this have to do with a newly drafted manuscript?
Well, the rough draft of the story has been set down. (The cat’s in the box with the necessary paraphernalia.) But is the story good or not? (That is, alive or dead?) Choose your definition of good (exquisite writing, commercial potential, whatever). It doesn’t matter what your definition is; any will do. But the writer is too close to the story to give an objective answer. Complicating the picture even more, our views will range from “This is great!” on Monday morning to “This is garbage!” by lunch time. We need outside opinions. (Someone to open the box.) Objective opinions. Only by having others read the story will we know if our definition of good is alive—or dead.
Does this mean …
Yes. My initial draft is done. Death Out of Time has been torn apart and rewritten. Once again, it’s a rough draft. And I need to know whether I’ve written a better story this time. The manuscript is about to be sent off to several alpha readers. I say alpha readers rather than beta readers because they will be the first people beyond me to read this rough draft. I’m looking for “big picture” critiques at this stage. Do the characters and story lines hold promise for a good, entertaining novel? I hope, of course, the answer is “Yes, the cat’s alive. Now take the poor thing out of the box for Pete’s sake!” “Time” will tell…. And if I find the cat is dead, well there is something else…. You see, once the manuscript is sent off, I’ll put it out of mind for a bit. That “something else” is another character tugging at my sleeve, looking for some attention. She’s been patient for a long time. But I have a sneaking suspicion she wants to challenge me big time with this story…. As if rebuilding a novel wasn’t challenging enough! Hard to believe we’re heading into mid-May already! How is your year shaping up so far?