|When I look at someone else's work, it is an attempt, for me at least, to try and interpret what I read, primarily as a reader, and not as a writer. It is difficult not to recognize that it is also seen as a work in progress, because nothing is ever really finished, depending on what the writer is trying to accomplish. PS&G is not my strong suit. I disagree with much of what 'traditional' or 'conventional' sources believe is the 'proper' way to produce literature. My views are rarely mainstream. There is no intention to promote those positions. These observations of mine should be taken with a 'grain of salt' as the saying goes. No attempt is made to rewrite the piece, although many suggestions and alternatives may be offered. These are made only to give the writer the ability to look at some other perspectives. Everything I do, from reviews to essays, is offered as an opportunity to entertain other possibilities. My own situation is similar in the respect that I truly listen to what someone else offers by way of observation and opinion, but I find that I receive as many points of view from those that have an opposite and just as credible view, and I am invariably left pretty much where I started, and the result ends up being adjustments or changes from a personal decision anyway. But they give me much to think about, and it all goes into the process. I do listen, just not as much as others would like. The assumption, for me, is that you will go through much the same progression. If there is something that interests you, that is gratifying. If not, there is no regret for my words or my opinion. I understand the frustrations of being a writer. I respect what they are trying to do. There is no intent to be harsh or to hurt feelings, although being honest almost ensures that it can be a possibility. It will always be given as a single individuals' opinion, nothing more. At that point, it is up to the writer to find value in my thoughts. Feel free to keep them and think about them, or to disregard them at your leisure.
I find that there is often a need to define a word or concept that I wish to cover in my work. So many words in our language have been 'hijacked' by special interests and they have perverted or simply promote an explanation that was never intended. Difficult to stop that, so the writer has to present exactly what their interpretation of that concept is. Normally, I would go through at least ten sites to get the varied information from origins and usage and possibly use it in context to attempt to make the word more interesting. What you have done, while there is nothing wrong with it, comes across a little bit dry. More like something from academia. I realize that the title tells us this will deal with salt, but we don't know in what way. It could be any of the four you include. It could even be all of them, but the piece would have to be longer, possibly much longer. That is something that I would suggest in any case.
My problem is that it does not 'hook' the reader, so some kind of narrative that contains the information would probably have been easier on the reader, and you could have introduced something specific that could be the reason that they, the reader, continue to follow the story. It might also be better to drop the secondary meanings that you will not use in your work, although I think they all could have been incorporated into the piece if you wanted to. If you had touched on the flavor of life, with all of the trial and tribulations, the common-sense conclusions that you came to after your deployment, the skepticism that has overtaken you with the changes in society, the need for steadfast individuals to fix things, and especially the 'old salt' sailor, since you ARE a sailor, and a writer, and that, in essence, is what an old salt is. All of these things could have given so much depth and interest in conjunction with what you actually put down to paper.
The writing is competent and consistent. It flows naturally and the thoughts are consistent throughout. There were some good phrases like behemoths of steel and stabbed the darkness falling over the sky. Nice stuff, but most of the time the narrative was in simple and matter-of-fact form. While everything related well, and I liked the story, it was missing something that I can only describe as 'introspection'. It was not personalized enough. There is a 'relaying' of what you did, but little depth as to why you did it, and especially what you were really thinking during the 'doing'. Some of what you are thinking comes through, but it is distant and superficial. The deployment is life-changing. I want to know exactly how. The fact that you talked to the MMC is not particularly interesting, although the fact that he came to you instead of going to him could be. But you didn't say why. This comes across more as something of a memoir, and, of course, it is since it is just about you and your experience during this event, but I never really get the sense of your fears and anxiety, both before leaving and then the turn of events that change the paradigm. It is obvious that you had no premonition of the pandemic but you didn't really relate how that affected you.
There is some good information and the story is interesting, but a bit superficial. Now, I am prejudiced, I like introspection. I always want to know the things that people say, but I really want to hear the things that they do not want to talk about. The things that they are afraid to share, that makes them vulnerable and open to criticism. I think many feel the same way. That is how you get the reader invested in the story and the character. Readers like to feel that they are just like the people you write about, or they want to know how they deal with many of the same things that they do, or they want to feel that they are doing better than them and get some satisfaction that the decisions they make are working for them. But the bottom line is that they want to know more. Always more. The development of you, as the main character, and being vulnerable and open, is what will 'catch' them. That 'hook' everyone talks about? It doesn't have to be right at the beginning, It can come at any time when the reader decides that they want to read it all and find out what happens next. The problem is that if it is not sooner rather than later, there may be no reader left to get 'caught'.
Another personal preference is that, with all of this depth I suggest, it means the length increases. Many critters will tell you to say with four words what you have done in ten. I say, maybe it will take a hundred. There is no rush to get to the end of the story, and fewer words mean less information, not that you can accomplish more with less at times. But not often. As a personal example I will give you a quick peek into my thinking. One of my favourite books of all time is Ayn Rands' 'Atlas Shrugged'. I know a lot of people don't like her work, but I think it is more an issue of her politics and philosophy. But the book is well done from a literary point of view. Second best-selling book of all time behind the Bible. The book is long, over a thousand pages. Most say way too long. Me? I wish it was twice as long. Length is not intimidating. Boring is. If there is value, and I found value on almost every page of one kind or another, length ceases to exist. Reading is a journey into a timeless place where you lose yourself in thought and fantasy. That is what you get with introspection and well-developed thoughts and dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue, this episode with the girl was just begging for some dialogue. Not to mention some dialogue with yourself with all of these issues. Dialogue is not my strong suit either, but it gives a different dimension and flow to the overall piece and a buffer between all the narrative parts. Back and forth between them gives a nice continuity.
Every paragraph there is something mentioned but not developed further. Those great behemoths of steel? You never mentioned what you felt about them. No mention even of exactly what your position was, and it seems like after your two months you are leaving and never coming back? How do you feel about being on these monsters? How does it feel as you progress through the ranks? What are your goals? What are your dreams? What do you hope to accomplish? We never found out what you did while on board the ship, just that you worked half of every day. A good amount of information. The potential was endless. There were questions flying around like fireworks in my head throughout the whole piece. To me, this means opportunities lost.
Most people that join the military (merchant marine? / Coast Guard?) have an interest in history, at least of their particular branch. You took the time to mention that it was 'never important to me'. Why not? It is to me, why is it not to you? Is this certification germane to the rest of the story? It doesn't seem so. Who is this guy that you wear on your chest? I can't find anything. Hamilton, Jones, Barry? I can find nothing that points to anything on the uniform of any branch of the military. These are distractions that can affect a reader. If you mention something there needs to be context, and if you can add some introspection, all the better.
The pandemic is something I am pretty ambivalent about. But you bring it up and again just go over the peripherals. Another opportunity to go into some detail, both surface and deeply. It must have been difficult to get basically imprisoned on a ship while this goes on, and you never let us know just how long that imprisonment was. You continue to relate a story but it continues to be under-developed. Don't get me wrong, I think the piece continues to be consistent and with a good degree of information and interest, it's only that it is so limited in scope and depth.
You move into the concept of salt now, and this again is interesting. These ships are made of nothing but metal and open to the weather and the worst nature can throw at it, and always in a salt-laden environment. It is a never-ending challenge to keep up with the work necessary to keep it sea-worthy. Again, while interesting, it comes across as a relating of information. And then you make the analogy with the 'scars after the hurt remains'. It kind of drove me crazy. What an absolute perfect segue into some deep insights into the human condition, integrated with the salt and the military and the hurts that we experience every day, with what you had to go through, and everyone everywhere, whether just staying alive, or dealing with the coronavirus. Another piece of fruit on the vine. You didn't go after it.
And that could have transitioned right into the fact that there was no one to care if you even ever returned to port. But you offer no explanations of why. No thoughts of what was lost or never existed. I think many readers at this point are dying to find out more about our MC. There are expectations. You have my attention, most assuredly. You then start some reflection of sorts, and you go into some good fertile ground. "The ocean blinds you of distractions and your (you're) left to whatever horrors you've locked in the depths of your mind". I love it! This is what I want to see all the time. This is more poetic that introspection, but both if you read it slowly. This is good stuff.
Not sure why you called her an 'acquaintance'. Wasn't she just another 'shipmate'? Good place for that dialogue here when you 'cast her off' twice. You cried and she comforted, and you came to realizations that you are never really alone, and there is always a soul in reach. There is no doubt in my mind that you could have made the narrative so much more inviting. Even here, you are giving us a view from a distance of what happened, when we should have been right there with you.
"We pushed our birds out of the nest to fly in a storm". Another good line and another good opportunity to lose yourself in a reverie about whatever was in your mind. You told me to not hold back when doing this review. My strongest impression is that you should stop holding back when you are putting pen to paper. But you say you only give the sea a glance one last time as you say goodbye. Where are you going? Are you never coming back? I am not sure I have ever read something with so much mystery and unanswered questions.
Again, I have to say this was a real opportunity to put something together that was as real as it can be, and would have reached people on a number of levels, all of them good. Those other definitions I mentioned that maybe were not all that important to start? They all could have been brought in. Especially the sailor part, the 'old salt' teller of tales. The common sense as we confront and address our problems with society and self. The singular nature of human beings and the interaction we have with them, from our own conversations with ourselves in our own mind to our relationship with pandemics and strangers that bring us solace and comfort when we least expect it.
This is a good story. Unfortunately it needs work, but I see nothing that would tell me you can not do it. It needs to be more poetic, and you showed in many instances that this is not a problem. It is something that you have the ability to do. I keep asking myself why you didn't. Don't overdo it but do it more. It needs to really leave your mark as to who you are, and that may be the biggest problem. It means letting all those readers see you naked on the page. I think it will be worth it, but who am I to say? I know nothing about you except what I read on these pages. You really did everything right. You need to put more of yourself into it. It could be something that is really good. I would think that all depends on what you are willing to do to get there.
I think that I have already given more 'suggestions' than I am normally wont to do. The problem is sometimes I just can't help myself. I did some quick research while doing all of this and I found some references into what historically is known as an 'old salt'. It jumped out at me as an interesting and inviting title for the piece itself. Old salt is the saltwater after the moisture evaporates and leaves that crust of salt on everything, and I am assuming that much of what you did on board was involved with that. The old sailor is the analogy of the person who spends their life on board various ships, with adventures innumerable, continuously coated with salt, and they end up a crusty caricature of their original selves, full of stories and anecdotes, with a wit and a perspective few people will ever experience, which of course is why it is so interesting to listen to their tales, even if they are stretched or even fabricated. The connection to any writer is an eerie comparison. I might envision myself as that old salt, and the story my reminiscence one from years in the future, instead of last week or last month, with all the same events, and all the same feelings. A flood of memories of my youth. And that would leave the door open to remember and recall almost anything else from your life that you wanted to add to the story to make it poignant to the point of profound. Once again, just another suggestion. I am confident this could work. I would like to see it happen.
All the fundamentals exist, it would only be the actual presentation that needs attention. A bit of focus on the prose itself. Let yourself get lost in the memories more. I have no idea what processes you go through, but one that I have found invaluable, and many others do as well, and that is reading your work to yourself, out loud. There is nothing that I write, from essays to reviews, that I do not read to myself, out loud, to work out the timing and the simple cadence of the sentences and delivery. I find that it is invaluable. And not just once. With every rewrite, there is another reading. I find many flaws by doing so, and it is surprising how many times mistakes are overlooked by the writer themselves.
I've given you some observations. I then ask if you have your own list of misgivings, and did I touch on any of them? Don't you want to share more with the reader than you did? If so, then you need to think about it more. If not, then you need to think about it even more. There were some spelling and grammar questions, but I leave them for you to discover, or someone else that may review with the need and ability to do so. I hope that you continue to work on this. I think it will be worth the effort, and it sounds like a story that deserves to be told.
Good luck with the writing. Thank you for sharing your words and your thoughts. I hope there is something contained in all of this that can be of some assistance. Nothing would make me happier.