- Samuel Johnson
When I finish a manuscript, I want to show it off to the world, but I know in my heart of hearts that it’s not ready. So, I read it over and over, and edit it over and over until I’m sure it’s somewhat decent before another person gets the opportunity/burden of viewing it. Like this:
Then I get the pages back only to find out that it needs A LOT OF WORK. More like this:
Why can’t I see the flaws in my own manuscript when I can see them in other manuscripts? To be redundant, I’ve read many books on the craft of writing and grammar since September so I thought this improved the quality of my manuscripts, but not to the extent I expected – at least not yet.
Once in a while, I’ll come across a blog or an interview, and the author will say how she wrote the manuscript in a month for NaNoWriMo*, took two weeks to polish it up, and then sent it off to an agent, who represented her immediately, and then sent it out to a publisher, who snatched it right up, and six-months later it’s on a bookstore shelf near you. Okay, I’m exaggerating just a little because the only part that isn’t true is the six months from contract to actual hardcover.
Another blogger bragged about how she sent a rough draft to the Amazon writing contest in January and is now on the short list. If I sent a rough draft to the Amazon contest, an official would’ve shown up at my door and ordered, “Ma’am, move away from the computer,” while he pried the laptop from my clutches, and then smashed it in front of my mortified eyes.
Now I know these quick success stories aren’t typical. Even Stephen King sits on his rough drafts for SIX WEEKS before editing, so he’s not too attached to his own words, and then he shows it to six friends, but I don’t think they do line-by-line critiques. My manuscripts need more intervention, especially since I didn’t spend my teens and college years filling up on writing and creative writing courses, so I’ve had much to learn later in life.
What are your strengths?
One of my strong areas is dialogue, which comes off as authentic. Related to this are believable interactions between characters. I’ve always felt these were my best writing assets, and enough readers have confirmed this, so I’ve got some redeeming qualities.
What are your weaknesses?
I’ve been too comma happy because I want to record each pause I hear in my head, but, I’ve, gotten, better, about, this, compulsion.
My sentences should be stronger. I’ve been told that I need to vary sentence lengths or the writing comes across as “stilted”, which makes me want to give up because that’s a devastating critique. Devastating.
Where have you made the most improvement?
As a newbie writer, I often made the novice mistake of showing rather than telling. Reading advice on many how to books and blogs have finally (I think) cured me of that.
There are a myriad of other aspects to writing: plot, character development, climax, layers, avoiding cliché, midpoint character change, opening, inciting incident, story-worthy problem, believability, and more. I’m feeling pretty good about those aspects of my manuscripts… most of the time.
I want recognition for all of the hours of creating, agonizing, doubting, editing, and crying. More than recognition, I want to know that these hours haven’t been a waste of time. The money spent for SCBWI membership and conferences are because I’m a writer and it’s all for this greater cause of making me a better writer and being a better writer means that eventually some agent will think I’m awesome and said agent will knock on every relevant publisher’s door until I get an awesome contract and that publisher will have so much faith in my manuscript that I’ll be top priority for promotion and readers will love my book and…
…Deep Breath. Exhale.
There are no guarantees in life. I know that.
When new people comment on my blog, they’ll often compliment my writing. I puff up with pride when I read that because I love writing posts and that’s the main feedback I receive about the quality of my writing.
So, why doesn’t my blog writing translate to good enough fiction writing? Nobody comments, “Your blog writing is stilted. Get a beta reader for your blog.” (But would you really tell me that?) My husband points out the one or two typos I can’t seem to avoid on each post, but that’s not really like being a beta reader, is it?
What’s my point of this whole post? I need a manuscript exchange partner for The Disappearances. Right around the time I realized that I was kidding myself as to its readiness, Mary Kole at KidLit set up this post where writers could find one another and set up critique partners and groups**. I’ve received four e-mails already and am setting up arrangements.
It’s time for some feedback. And patience.
*Here’s more about the group and contest:
** Mary’s post: