Thursday, April 12, 2012

M is for Manuscript-So You Want to Write One?

So you think you'll write a book.  Okay.  It's a good aspiration.  I have but one modest suggestion at the outset:  Be sure that's what you really want to do, as writing that book can be bad for your health, physically and emotionally, if you're not ready or willing to do what it takes.

What does it take?  From my viewpoint, it takes the perseverance of a marathon runner, the patience of a saint and the perspective of an octogenarian at least.

First, let's get an idea.  You know, that new slant, brilliant twist, blockbuster worthy, light bulb busting, aha?

Now comes the research.  Let's see if your topic's been done before.  No?  Great!  Time to get on with the real research.  Are those stats correct?  Be sure the geography is right.  Don't make a mistake with history, for heaven's sake.

Got all that in place?  Fab.  Now it's time to wait for your muse to visit.  Did I mention wait?  Oh, yes.  Because this is a being that delights in calling the shots, usually later rather than sooner.  But finally, she's come calling to accompany you through the morass of story building.

You settle in for a lovely literary liaison with her.  And things go so well!  That first draft of your manuscript is finished.  You are so proud.  So happy.  So fulfilled.

Then it's time to visit your critique group.  Didn't I mention your critique group?  Silly me.  You must have one.  No, no, no to writing in a vacuum.  But not to worry.  You have produced a masterpiece, and everyone there will sing your praises and cast literary lilies at your feet.

Yeah.  Right.  They tear it to shreds.  Nothing left but your title, and half of them hated that. They say things like, "What point of view?  You don't have a point of view." Or perhaps, "These characters are so shallow, I can see right through them."  You know.  Helpful comments.

Home you slog in a huff, manuscript still too hot to handle from all the vitriol spewed upon it. 

Next morning, you take up your quill, open the hateful pages with your fellow authors' marks covering them--and learn!  Waddya know?  Huh.  Their ideas aren't half bad.  And you summon your muse back and begin again.

Now emerges the fun part.What is it, you ask?  Two words, with an article between:  Agent or publisher.  Research revisited.  Yep.  Gotta see who matches whom, as in:  "Why did this agent reject my book?  Yes, she's known for Romance Novels, but surely she cannot resist my concept book."  Have another think about that...

Photo Tn 12But, hey, miracles still happen  (think George Bailey), and a publisher wants your book.  That's terrific.  You're gonna make millions and fast, too.  Why, it'll only take--how long?  Two years!  I could be dead by then.  What's that?  It'll be published postumously?  Swell. 

And so it goes, But, then again, there's something wonderous, delicious, glorious about writing that manuscript, polishing that manuscript, shining that manuscript, that I would not miss for the world.


  1. I enjoyed the "M" post and I gotta agree with most of that. But I must say, my critique groups never shred a manuscript. (I realize what you wrote was with tongue in cheek). But my advice is, go with a critique group whose purpose is to help.

  2. Thanks, Barbara! You're always so supportive, and I just love that. Yes, it was tongue in cheek all the way. My group, in reality, is kind spirited, which doesn't mean they don't say what needs to be said--but always in a constructive way. Your last sentence sums it up: If your group doesn't work for you, make an exit, and find another!

  3. I agree with this - it takes a lot to write a book! Not to mention what it takes to publish one :)

  4. Hi Nancy:

    Great way to start my morning! Your humorous post has put me in a delightful state of mind. Yes, find the critique group that is right for you and don't stay with one that just praises your work. You need critical eyes that point out what we don't see since we read our words every day!

    Warm regards,

  5. What a fun post! And I love the Peanuts pictures to go along with it. It definitely takes a lot of work to write a book, even more to publish it. New follower from the A-Z Challenge.

    Cherie Reich - Author

    Surrounded by Books Reviews

  6. This is funny, Nancy. But you forgot to mention the other M word - Marketing. That makes all the rest look easy.

  7. Too much fun in a "I resemble that remark" kind of way. I feel you should have highlighted, bolded and italicized, "Did I mention wait?" because everything takes so long from the creation through submission and finally the publication. So long!

  8. Thanks, everyone, for the remarks! You're right, of course, Jan, but I felt it was getting too long as it was so decided not to include it.

    And, Kai, wow, does it take a long time! Even with a series under my belt, I never get used to the time factor. No wonder it's said that writing is the longest of the performing arts!

  9. Hi Nancy - popping in from the A-Z to say hi! Who said writing was easy? It's a long hard slog with so many ups and downs. But it's worth it in the end!

  10. Hello, Nancy! This is too true! Loved this part: " takes the perseverance of a marathon runner, the patience of a saint and the perspective of an octogenarian at least." LoL, you are absolutely right! The writing process can be difficult but it's also very rewarding.

    Have a great weekend and happy A to Z!!

  11. Nancy, nicely written post with great pointers! Writing is sure hard work. I love that passage Laura mentioned also. LOL

    Thanks for sharing - I'll be sharing the link.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  12. I am still in the dreaming stages and gathering information I LOVE your post lots to think about...
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.
    have a great weekend!.

  13. Hi Nancy. I am from Kid Lit Reviews and am accepting your invitation to read your blog. I'm glad I came today. I had no idea this was a shared blog. Great way to keep the posts current without all the pressure.

    Everything you wrote is what my mentor told me. I have written lots of reviews and unpublished stories, but haven't started on the book I desire to write. I think have a great story, a scene and characters in mind, and then it all goes poof! On second read of a short synopsis, I see how it wasn't a great idea after all. I am envious of the authors who seem to know what to write, book, after book, after book.

    I wondered if there was a secret step I miss, but no, there are none. I think I get so busy reading other's books I lose track of time for mine. But I do love reviewing.

    I know a couple of writers that need to read this post. But then, so did I.

  14. The end is worth all the pain of getting there. Nice to meet you from A to z.

  15. Writing ANYTHING is definitely NOT for sissies! :)

  16. This is a FANTASTIC post. Seriously. You've covered everything one must go through to write a novel. Perserverance is key, because there's so many times you'll want to quit. But, as someone said above, the end is totally worth it.

    Nice to meet you! :)

  17. Great post! I love writing the first draft. Thanks for stopping by my blog too. :)

  18. Thanks for such a great post Nancy. I find an element of relaxation in revision. I let it sit and then go back, over and over again. I get to sit and ponder; what could be better? It's an enjoyment to me. Then one day, it just looks right, and I think I'm finished, but no. I tighten and tighten some more. Finally I do find a time when I think it is right. I submit, submit, submit, but those insidious rejections find their way to my inbox/door....Revision, revision, revision. Happy writing everyone!

  19. The words "ripping to shreds" is a little painful. Ok a lot painful, but necessary. :) Lot's of good information here.


  20. I really loved this. It kept me reading and away from the chapter I should be revising and the agents I should be submitting to. Thank you so much. Now back to Revision....aargh