Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When Manuscripts Haunt You

I am finally putting away the folder for a middle-grade manuscript I started in 2003. Without going into boring detail, it was the first manuscript I ever wrote, and what spurred me on to write children's fiction. In the past 14 years I revised it here and there (the first chapter maybe 546 times but who's counting), sent it out a few times, and literally and figuratively stashed it in the drawer for years on end.

But it haunted me.

When I saw that a new book had come out with similar themes, it haunted me.

When I sat down to write something else, it called to me like a drunken teenager at a frat party - "Write me, you know you want to. Everyone else is doing it."

I almost totally avoided writing anything in 2014 because I couldn't bear to SIT in the chair by the desk where it hid.

But slowly over that year, I made the decision to REALLY work at writing. I joined a great, new critique group and a few online writing communities. And once the real writing happened, it was only a matter of time before I would have to tackle this manuscript. Mind you, it wasn't haunting me nearly as much when it knew I was doing all these awesome writerly things. I think it knew I was coming for it.

So I am now done revising it on my own. Not another word shall be changed in that manuscript unless requested so by an agent or editor. It was really fun to crack open the second half of the manuscript (which needed it the most) and just go for it. But now, it has been exorcised.

I  went to a writer's workshop this weekend where I got to hear an amazing keynote address by writer Alice Mattison. Even though she writes adult manuscripts and short stories, her words rang true for everyone.

"Protect your writing time - other people are not going to
 protect it for you."

But what I loved most was this quote about revision and reading your own work:

"If you can get your book not to recognize you..." (she suggests reading in a different part of the house or possibly wearing a hat) "...what it will do is, what you want to do is, read it as if you didn't know what was coming."

I guess my disguise was more pounds and wrinkles than I had 14 years ago. Maybe after all this time I managed to sneak up on IT and read and revise a totally new manuscript. After 14 years, maybe it was.

1 comment:

  1. *Wild cheering and clapping*!!!