In Year Eight we had to dissect a sheep’s eye.
I was repulsed at seeing the eyeballs floating in a jar of formaldehyde like a Dali nightmare. Today, a student could probably conscientiously object on the grounds of being vegetarian. But not back then. There was no way out.
Our science teacher, appropriately named Miss Hook, captured an eyeball and put it onto my dissecting tray. The smell stung my eyes and nose. Then, under Miss Hook’s guidance, with scissors and scalpel in hand, I proceeded to cut it up.
I don’t remember much about my time at school, not the learning part of it, anyway. But I will never forget the day we cut up that sheep’s eye.
The aqueous and vitreous humor like clear jelly, the lens and how it resembled a boiled lolly, the iris because it reminded me of a fried onion ring, the sclera and retina and optic nerve. All these bits that make up an eye are so clear in my mind even after so many years. Why? Because we didn’t just look at pictures. We prodded and sliced and cut, we methodically pulled this eyeball apart in the lab.
After finishing a manuscript, it is important to dissect your story in much the same way. Look at each part of your novel separately. That is, read through your entire manuscript looking at just your main characters. Do they have satisfying character arcs. Go through your ms only looking at plot. Is it exciting? Is there movement leading to a climax? This is especially important when writing for young people. Next consider adverbs. Have you used too many? Go through your story looking for the parts that drag or are boring? They need to be cut.
Methodically holding up each part of your novel for individual scrutiny means that your story will be richer, more exciting and more complete.