Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Mid-life Crisis of a Manuscript

There comes a time in every manuscript's life when it needs a real self-evaluation, especially if it's been through one or more rejections.

This is not an easy time in the manuscript's life. It's a time of anger, denial, self-doubt, self-abuse, restlessness, uncertainty, depression, and lack of desire to keep on living. It's kind of a mid-life crisis; the manuscript wonders, 'What's my purpose in life? Why am I working so hard and getting nowhere? Why are some manuscripts further ahead than me, and they haven't put forth nearly so much effort?'

What your manuscript needs to understand is, we've all been there. We know what it's going through, and it doesn't have to suffer through alone.

Here are some steps I've come up with to help your manuscript with the deep, internal probing.

First, focus on simplifying. Ask yourself these questions: Do I really need all of these plot lines? What about these characters? Can I cut the first two chapters and start at chapter 3?

Second, focus on improving. Now that you've simplified, take a look at what's left. Ask yourself: How can I make these characters more real? What plot lines are forcing these characters through the oil press and which ones aren't pushing them along? How can I make my plot lines more significant? What can I do to bring the setting to life?

Third, focus on magnifying. You've done some major reshaping to your life. Now expand. Ask yourself: How can I make these characters grow? What struggles can I give them? How can I connect these two plot lines? How do I make this story flow? What transitions can I add?

Once your manuscript has gone through these steps, it will feel much better about itself, more at ease, and ready to begin again. It's a fresh start. A new life.

Next time, we'll talk about what to do when your manuscript goes through these steps and realizes it needs to do some major purging.

What steps has your manuscript taken to get out of a mid-life crisis?


Sara McClung ♥ said...

I cut almost the entire first two chapters... It was like a knife through the heart at the time, but goodness was I happy with the results!! (AND I got to rework a few pieces of the first two chapters later in the book...)

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

You know, Tamara, this was a great post. I think sometimes we get so attached to the ms "as is," that we can't let go of the fluff. It is so good to be reminded to let go, to cut, cut, cut.

I can't wait to meet you in person. Are you going to the LDS Storymaker's conf.?

laurel said...

Fantastic post. I think new sets of eyes on the manuscript helped me begin to get through the mid-life crisis. Under the advice of new CPs, I cut the first chapter and suddenly the story had amazing new vitality. After making that cut, I also got a clearer sense of what wasn't working in the middle. Rewriting that section is currently on my plate.

SB said...

if only i even had a manuscript...i cannot even get to its midlife crisis as its not even been born. so sad. its trying though.

mark said...

Sara and Laurel--it's *amazing* what cutting a chapter or two does! I've not cut from the beginning, but I've chopped internally. And boy it really makes you take a second look at the manuscript.

Melissa--if only!!! I would love to be there. No money to get to Utah though.

SB--you crack me up! You must give life to that manuscript!

PS. I'm on my husband's computer so it might post as him. He's busy watching Netflix on my computer.

LMJ said...

Thank you for your kind wishes and words. I accidently erased everything in my e-mail...and was unable to reply. Or I don't know if I did.

Elisa said...

really intriguing post. I don't have any MS, but I find that in my scholarly writing I have never been challenged by say "atleast 10 pages" but struggle way more with "maximum of 5 pages". I ALWAYS have to cut things... and sometimes I feel like I'm cutting out GOOD writing... but I have to remind myself that it is good writing that doesn't contribute to the GREAT paper overall. Always a challenge.

Kelly Lyman said...

great post. I cut four whole chapters of my WIP and rewrote only one of them. I don't even know if the others will make it back in. Last night, I cut out multiple paragraphs out of one chapter and I have even finished it yet...I know there will still be more to cut yet!

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