Obsessive Manuscripts

Well, I finally finished the line-edit of the rewrite of my rough NaNoWriMo 2012 manuscript. Actually, it was two line-edits: a mark-up of a printed copy of the MS, and an on-screen edit after I’d incorporated the first set of line edits. I reached the point where I was tweaking the tweaks or making what, as a magazine editor, I used to call “happy to glad changes.” Enough was enough. I stopped editing and sent a copy off to four writer friends who had agreed to be beta readers.

So, what did I learn, aside from remembering not to do “happy to glad” changes?

Well, for one thing, I found I can re-write a 400-page manuscript in two months’ time, but only if I do little else except that.

Excessive use of dialogue tags is great for padding your NaNoWriMo word count but tedious when you’re editing.

A manuscript can take over your life. You think about it when people are talking to you about something else. You dream about it. You bore other people explaining about how you decided to cut a whole chapter because it didn’t really add to the story. It intrudes when you’re trying to write about something else, and you feel guilty when you’re paying attention to it and not other writing projects. Then, you feel guilty when you’re working on other writing projects and not it. It (the MS) obsesses you; you’re obsessed with it; it’s an obsession.

And that’s a good thing.

I suppose.

No, no, it is, it is. Really. But, even after you’ve sent it off to the beta readers, you still think you should be editing it. Nothing big comes to mind. No plot holes except those you’ve already found, but it’s hard to be patient and wait for the betas’ comments.

I have to say, though, I’m really, really proud of this manuscript. I like the characters, the story, the settings, the twists and turns. I’m glad what started out as a suggestion in a comment on a 100-word Friday Fictioneers story turned into a 385-page, fully developed novel not involving spies and guns and intrigue.

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t ever stop writing about those things. Rather, the change of pace was challenging, and I hope I met the challenge. We’ll see. It’s another of those things you have to be patient about.

Did I mention I’m not a very patient person? I’m more the “why wait for it when you can go out and get it done” kind of person. (Of course, as anyone who knows me will allude to, I’ll think it to death before I act on it.) I’m more than eager to get this MS before some agents, but I also want those agents to see the best possible manuscript; so, patience it is.


Dueling Manuscripts

Even though I crossed the 50,000-word goal for my NaNoWriMo project for this year, the first draft of the manuscript itself isn’t finished. There are two to three big scenes left to wrap the story up, and I have them mapped out in my head. I figured for the next few days I’d devote the time to fleshing them out completely.

Good plan, right? Just after I started NaNoWriMo this year, a different manuscript–from NaNoWriMo two years ago–finished its journey through my critique group. I got excellent feedback from that experience: no major plot holes but several very good suggestions on how to tie up a couple of threads. I took copious notes because I knew my focus would be on this year’s NaNoWriMo first draft. The plan was to pick the other manuscript up after November 30.

As a countryman of mine once wrote, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men go often awry.”

I woke early this morning with the critique group manuscript in mind. In fact it superseded everything on the calendar today, including a doctor’s appointment where the physician’s assistant kept asking me if I were listening to her. The rewrites I needed to do based on the suggestions were crystal clear, so clear, in fact, that during the time I normally reserve for morning coffee and the newspapers, I immediately wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget. All right, I thought, that should have put the nagging need to fix the 2010 manuscript to rest, because the “best-laid scheme” was still to pick this manuscript up after finishing the 2012 NaNoWriMo first draft.

But no, that wasn’t how it worked. I’ve spent the better part of the day going into the 2010 manuscript and fixing that thread. That meant adding/changing dialogue in eight or nine chapters then doing a quick review to make certain I hadn’t created other loose threads by weaving together the previous one.

Despite not adding to the 2012 word count–that will come later today–I’ve got that goose-bumpy feeling a writer gets when you know you’ve made a breakthrough on a manuscript. Now, this particular manuscript is the closest of any of the ones I have in various stages of completion to being ready to shop around. For that reason, I’m glad it was so insistent that I should drop everything (including the regular Monday morning writing blog and lunch, apparently) to get that fix made.

The truth is the remaining scenes for the 2012 NaNoWriMo wouldn’t turn out the way they needed to because of the distraction. Sometimes, though, distractions are good. If I’d ignored the need to fix that older manuscript, it would have colored my work on the current one. So, I gave into it. Bad writer planning? Bad craft? Maybe to some, but it’s obvious to me it was exactly what both manuscripts needed.

Now, let’s hope that all the other MSS stay quiet for the remaining eleven days in November!