Monday, September 15, 2014

# Mild-Mannered Mondays # Monday Musings

An Open Letter to My Manuscript

Dear Manuscript:

I'd like to think of myself as both a reasonable person and a seasoned writer. For reasons I have yet to fathom, however, you apparently want to challenge both of these opinions.

I have given you the due attention all manuscripts deserve. Before ever setting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), you were carefully considered, debated, dreamed about, and conceptualized. Extensive notes were taken, continuity was checked, and index scene cards were written, shuffled, and altered. Character dossiers were constructed with all the fervor of a secret agent tracking down a million dollar bounty. And I must say, with all that preparation in hand, we were off to a great start when I opened that first blank page and began writing.

Where did it go wrong?

Before long, smooth sailing turned to hurricane conditions in shark-infested waters. Characters wouldn't behave, plot points refused to leave my fingertips, and word count stalled. I would wrestle you down until a scene finally appeared, only to have you shut down again. This start and stop approach has turned what should have been a two month draft into a seven month (and counting) battle of wills.

Now, just when I thought I'd figured out the rules, you changed course on me. New details are emerging, vital additions to scenes that you've whispered must be added. More action. More shocking revelation. More, more, more. Write, write, write. Go, go, go! And now, my dear, please forgive me for saying it, but you've put on a lot of meat in the process. Too much.

The plan was for you to be a tidy little manuscript of oh, say 60k words or so. Maybe 70k, since you are the last in a series and there are ends to tie and a big picture to finish painting. But you had other plans, didn't you? You got greedy. At the rate we're going, we'll cross 100k and still be sprinting to the finish line. You know you're going to have to shed 30k or so of bloat before you can cross the publisher's desk. So why do this to yourself--and me?

Now, I'm not suggesting we return to the days of "you can't make me". If given the choice, I'll take the runaway train approach over the solid block wall anytime. But we have got to wrap this up. So put on your jogging shoes and your fitness wristband, baby, and prepare to go lean and hard. No more late night snacks of 3k or so when you won't let me sleep. No more early morning binges where you whisper, "You should go back to chapter three and add THIS because it'd be really cool". Feel free to deviate from upcoming notecards, but only if your suggestion is both an improvement and a replacement for the existing scene, not an addition.

I know it will be tough. Habits are hard to break. But believe me, I'm doing this for your own good. You'll thank me when edit time comes rolling around.


Your Loyal and Frazzled Author


J. Rose Allister is the author of more than twenty-five books, primarily romance and erotic romance. A former editor and submissions director, she now works as a mild-mannered hospital secretary by day, naughty writer by night.  For more gab, find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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