Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting Back Together With A Manuscript (I hate you! I love you!)


Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed a change in tone a while back. I'd been having serious relationship problems with my manuscript, and Taylor Swift's latest song perfectly described my attitude.

I'd sing to my Work In Progress, "We are never, ever, ever, getting back together!"

Like, EVER.

I wondered if the colossal amount of time spent on this book was a colossal waste. Even though I knew writing time was never wasted, I thought my time on my book was the exception.

But contrary to the song, me and my manuscript are back together again and happier than ever. What changed? I began by asking myself these three questions:
  1. Do I love the story?
  2. Is it worth telling?
  3. Do I, as a reader, like reading it and think others will enjoy it, too?
I answered Yes to all three questions. So how did my manuscript and I mend our tumultuous relationship? Here's what worked for us:

Recognize problems and be open to solutions

Our gut tells us what isn't working. It's like the relationship therapist who helps us see what needs to change. 

Once I recognized problem areas, I searched through my notes for old, unused ideas. I thought of new ideas. I asked for advice, received it, and didn't brush it aside. I read blog posts by Janice Hardy & Martina Boone with new interest, focusing on how that information would enhance my own work. Literally...I was open to anything.

Give it time

This is always a biggie for writers, and I had to re-test my patience. Like a petulant child, I wanted my solutions now

My relationship-therapist-gut was on overdrive. I wanted to dump anything that frustrated me and write something new. But many times the good bones were there, I just needed to tweak this or that to make a scene more compelling. But when a scene needed to go, I had absolutely no problem cutting it. And once I'd written fresh scenes, I gave them time to marinate until I revised them.

Time. Time. Time. 

Appreciate the good

Once I'd cut the blah and enhanced the good, my own work looked lovey-dovey again. There was plenty of quality in my story, I just had to chill out, be patient, and let my mind wander. Once I started actively searching for solutions and applying them to the manuscript, it no longer seemed like a colossal waste of time. Re-reading passages became a joy again, and I got that feeling. You know the one.

Have I been in this position before? Yep. See my post "Is your story worth saving?" Does my manuscript still need work? Yep. But now that we're back together again, I'm thankful I didn't give up on it. Our relationship is totally worth the hard work.

Have you ever wanted to break up with your manuscript? If you stayed together, what saved your relationship? Do you have any other revision advice you can share with us?

And just for fun, here's Taylor Swift's song that I sang to my manuscript in frustration:


32 comments:

  1. LOL! That song seriously gets stuck in my head. :D SO glad you and WIP have made up! Here's to much future success.

    I haven't had this problem, but I've had a similar one--neglecting a WIP too long. That's hard, too. <3

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    1. Leigh, this song has been stuck in my head for about a week. When it comes on in the car, look out. Me and my boys sing loud like a bunch of wounded coyotes :)

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  2. I have a manuscript that I'm madly in love with to the point, I'll probably never be able to revise it. I'll need to re-write it some day, but I don't know when, because I love it the way it is.

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    1. Maybe that's a good thing! I've it's had plenty of time to rest, and you still love it the way it is, maybe it's ready ???

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  3. I have definitely felt like this, only to go running back to a manuscript, saying, "I'm sorry! It's my fault--I was putting my needs ahead of yours!" Okay, so I haven't been that dramatic about it, but I've gone back after thinking it was over. It's a hard thing to stick with something that frustrates you like crazy, but it sounds like you made the right decision in getting back together with your project!

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    1. "I'm sorry! It's my fault--I was putting my needs ahead of yours!"

      OMG, that cracked me up!

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  4. Really perfect timing with this post -- just got some feedback from a workshop on a novel and trying to decide if I want to make changes to the ms and not sure I have the heart or stomach... but this gave me good advice on how to handle it: time and appreciating the good are just what I need! Thank you!

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    1. Absolutely! And now that you have feedback, it gives you a roadmap. Good luck to you on your revision.

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  5. Glad you two worked it out!
    Feedback from critique partners often helps if I'm struggling. I even bounced the outline for my third book off two of them, and one had a suggestion that has led to one of the best twists in the story and a character I've really enjoyed writing.

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    1. Oooooh, that's so cool that your CP gave you a great idea for a twist! Love that.

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  6. These questions are just what I needed. I stuffed my MS under the bed and moved on to the next, but I still love that story and those characters. I think I'll consider it "in hibernation" (instead of dead) and go back to it after I finish my current WIP.

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    1. Absolutely! Those beloved characters deserve to be pulled from under the bed. Good luck with your current wip, and with the undead book :)

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  7. Im glad you are back together with your MS, but I can understand your feelings 110%!!!!

    Great luck!

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  8. Working through a manuscript IS very much like a relationship. Lots of ups and downs, tons false starts and endings, etc. Much like love, if your ever to see it through you're going to need patience, vision, and hope. :-)

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  9. Happy you worked it out! I'm currently on the fence about one project. I love it and think others would like it ... but it needs a bit of work, and I'm not 100% sure of what exactly that means yet. I'll take your advice and see if I can tip the balance! :)

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  10. Ha, ha. This made me laugh out loud. Right now, I think me and my manuscript need marriage counseling.

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  11. Terrific advise. I think we've all experienced love/hate relationships with our writing before, but no matter what the issue is, it's next to impossible to turn our backs on them. Gluttons for punishment, I guess.

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  12. Fun post, Julie. I don't think I've ever had that kind of relationship with a manuscript. :)

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  13. Julie, this is so funny. "TODAY" I was on my way to the dentist and this song came on the radio. And I sang. Yes, alone in my car. So much fun. And then, here it is again. A sign.

    Yes, I wanted to give up on my MS. I spent so much time and thought did I waste my time? I didn't give up and two years later, I loved it. We got back together.

    Never say never.

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  14. Great song!! Great post too!! I think we all go through periods of love/hate like that with our manuscripts. It sometimes hard to hold on but if we do, we usually end up in a better place. Good luck with yours.

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  15. I took you advice, Julie, and I no longer want to see other manuscripts. My manuscript and I are once again spending quality and non-quality time together.

    Sure she has flaws, sure she's not beautiful, and frankly she's not that funny. But she's mine and mine alone!

    Thanks for a clever post.

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  16. Yes, I've been there! You're right that it's all about time. Sometimes the idea you start writing is worth it, just not right at this moment! It's good to step back and get some space for a bit. I'm glad you and your MS got back together. :) Have fun!!

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  17. Now I have this song stuck in my head! (My girls keep singing it anyway, so I guess I won't blame you! ha ha!) When it comes on the radio I ALWAYS turn down the volume for a second and tell my kids, "This is a dysfunctional relationship. I never want you to be in one like this." Ha ha! Here's to a long and happy (and healthy) relationship with your ms!

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  18. Great post, and yes I have been there ;) I think I still am with a lot of my manuscripts right now.

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  19. Awww, I'm sorry you and your MS almost broke up! I've been there, many times and sometimes I fought to save the relationship and sometimes I decided to let it go. Whatever you decide, you're going about it the right way. The sane way. And that's hard to do when you've got so much time and energy invested in something. Good luck and miss ya!

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  20. Superb!!!
    Thanks for the effort and also thanks for sharing.
    Regards,
    Quotes About Moving On

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  21. Ha! I'm on speaking terms with mine again as well. After deconstructing with some help from a craft book, I decided I needed to hold off on a big reveal because it was too soon/throwing off the pace. It's created a huge ripple I now have to fix, but I hope in the end it makes for smooth sailing. Glad you kissed and made up! Can't wait to read it:)

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  22. Love the way you put this whole post, and your evaluation questions.

    Have I ever wanted to break up with a manuscript? You bet. There's a day or two when I love them, and then I read them, and OY! Lol!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Martina

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  23. I'm so glad you and MS are goin' steady again. You two make the cutest couple.

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  24. I so know how you feel. I have had two manuscripts like this, one I finally finished after 5 rewrites. The other I am still working on. But like you said, I love the story and am determined to complete it. Thanks for sharing your input!

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  25. Absolutely! Which is why I never finish anything... In fact I'm going back to "re-visit" an old part manuscript and get reacquainted. It has long been relegated to a dusty shelf and it's time to brush off the cobwebs.

    Thanks for the timely reminder :)

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