Excerpt from feedback notes on;
An autobiographical work about a woman's challenge in releasing a 'black spell' that had thwarted her emotional development, allowing her to move forward into a happier, more fulfilled life.
Clearly, from the first sentence, the reader senses that they're off on an exotic adventure with a favorite friend. I see this story as a woman's journey from despair, confusion, and disillusionment to self-acceptance, understanding, and love. And even for people not especially receptive to or interested in black magic, bone throwing, or the Sangoma, the moving tale of your journey works very well as a metaphor for self-discovery. The challenge here is healing one's sadness and spiritual emptiness by asking for help, searching for it, and turning to a higher force, whatever its name.
Every book, however, needs a true beginning and this one is rather diffused and abrupt, offering too much information too quickly. For instance, you mention upfront that 'black magic had been placed on me,' without explaining how and why you believe that to be the case. I'd explain it later. Instead, I'd start, with an exposition that would prepare the reader for what is to come, perhaps beginning with an overarching statement like: 'In nearly everyone's life, there are times when your world is literally and figuratively falling apart or turned inside out. Everything seems to be wrong–and there's no easy way out. It was like that for me for decades, for I carried inside me a dull, dark feeling that nothing could shake. Not yoga. Not therapy. Not romance. Not drugs. Nothing at all. And I eventually discovered the reason why. When I did, I embarked on the adventure of my life in order to transform it.' Those are just my words, but something like that would grab the reader without giving away too much of the story too soon.
Overall, your text reads as a DIARY, and it would, if structured correctly, work as one and give it a unique flavor. However, if you want it to be a suspenseful nonfiction book, it has to be judiciously edited so that you don't get bogged down in too much detail or storytelling or venting of extraneous emotions.
One major challenge with this manuscript is the improper use of language. It seems as if the manuscript was very quickly written in a stream of consciousness style, for a great number of the sentences are awkward or incomplete or confusing. In order to see BONES published, nearly every sentence would need to be rewritten.
For example: 'Nothing like magic, or the work of a witch doctor ever occurred to me, but once told, years of carrying a dull, dark feeling that I could not shake no matter what I did, began to unravel my past in my mind in broad strokes.' Instead, it should read something like this: 'The idea of consulting a witch doctor had never occurred to me, much less putting my faith in magic! But after years of carrying inside me a dull, dark feeling, I was desperate for a cure and willing to try anything.'
Another example: 'I wanted to live with elegance and grace, but I had no patience for scholarship [what does one have to do with another?] and I didn't want to be poor economically speaking.' Instead: 'At this time in my life, I desperately wanted to find my own special niche–to be very good at something! But I wasn't sure what it was. From a lifestyle point of view, I also knew that I wanted to live with elegance and grace. But how?' Something like that.
Another example of a bruised sentence: 'There is nothing I know of except the current scientific knowledge that at some point, all of humanity connect through lineage in common ancestry that began in Africa.' Instead: 'According to scientists, the lineage of every human being can be traced through a common source....etc. '
The best advice I can give any writer is to READ OUT LOUD the sentences they compose, for the ear always detects mistakes in syntax much more efficiently than the eye. Therefore, the quickest 'fix' for this manuscript is an oral reading that would immediately delineate the quickest route to sentence repair. I suggest you do this. And the best way to do it is to have someone else read it to you.
Main Body Review:
By hearing your manuscript read aloud, sentences like these will throw up red flags: 'I didn't believe in showing my feelings and so it struck me to take a high road to being free of things that troubled me, I joined this group.' Instead: 'At that time in my life, it was difficult for me to reveal, much less confront, my deepest feelings about a variety of things; and so, in an attempt to free myself from anything that troubled me, I joined this group.'
I do like the humorous touches about our culture's stereotypical view of a WITCH DOCTOR, something we've seen portrayed in the movies and in comic books. I also like your hilarious story about a Medouin who tried to buy you with necklaces and a goat! Your insertion of biographical material needs to be tighter and more compact, however; otherwise, it slows the story down. And don't give too many specifics. 'I also went to a huge screenwriting weekend [delete the word HUGE, instead use intensive]...'It was less about screenwriting and a whole lot about David McKee...' This somehow seems irrelevant.
By page 3 of the manuscript, the attention of the reader is wandering because you're going into too much detail about people like Joseph Campbell and Gurdgieff. Again, this begins to sound like a stream of consciousness tirade instead of a tightly-told story about an adventure to Africa. If you want to mention some of the background influences that eventually propelled you on your mission, you need to do it in a more compact, efficient way. It seems to me that your goal here is to demonstrate that you had an enormously difficult and painful time finding both a professional and personal 'niche' and that you had tried many different ways of healing yourself. You make it clear that you were bubbling with 'a dark throbbing inner energy,' but didn't know quite where or how to direct it. You describe in vivid terms the strangely unhappy feeling that was a symptom of the black magic spell. 'It was a dark nervous pulsing shadow that lived inside me.' I like when you say that this image was actually sleeping inside you. Tell us more about it.
It's heart-rending to hear how valiantly you searched for some relief from this spell vis ˆ vis yoga and romantic attachments and through a variety of other vehicles. I think people will identify with this journey and be touched by it. 'I really became a hermit....' One can sense your loneliness and intense need to be self-protective. However, the digression of describing your investment in a film bogs the manuscript down–and I would delete it entirely. Your main point is already made, that nothing was flowing in your life.