Monday, January 31, 2011
Monday's Writing Tip: Don't Send Out Your Your Manuscript Too Soon!
Just make sure your monster is ready to fling! There's always a sense of accomplishment and achievement when you've completed your manuscript (or killed your monster). After numerous drafts (of being held captive slave to it), you're likely to feel confident enough to submit it. But hold on just a little longer before you do that.
I'm reading Robert Masello's Rule 27, "Let it Marinate," from his Robert's Rules of Writing. He suggests holding on to a manuscript for about two weeks. And this means not working on it, and especially not reading it! Just "let it marinate."
Afterwards, you'll be able to view your work with "a passably fresher eye." I'm doing this now with a novel I'm preparing to submit, yet again! I was a bit hasty in thinking it was ready. Now I'm going through it with a fine toothed comb and discovering all sorts of things I can improve.
Masello says you're likely to find "sentences that bump strangely, paragraphs that don't belong, bon mots that no longer seem so bon, typos, and misspellings." I've been restructuring sentences and finding places where I've left out words completely, and of course, now I'm seeing all those little spelling errors not picked up by Spellcheck, like form used for from!
How do you manage to miss all those things, the first time around? You're too close to your work, according to Masello. And this is understandable, after you've worked on something for months. He states, "You knew every nuance of prose, every beat, every twist and turn and transition. It's not that you couldn't see the forest for the trees--you couldn't see the trees for the twigs."
So time to pull back. Kill the monster, but don't throw its body to the masses yet. Hold onto the remains (in a drawer, hard drive, thumb drive, etc.) Put some distance between you and your work. Get it out of your head for a while, so you can encounter it as a stranger would.
Ask yourself if there are passages that don't seem immediately clear. At the beginning of a new chapter, have you accurately described where a character is, or is that not made clear until paragraph three. If you have to pause a moment to get your bearings straight, time for some revising!
Masello ends this section as follows, "It happens to every writer out there. But the good ones know that by holding on to the work for just that little extra bit, by giving it a final once over-over in the cold light of a new day, they stand a much better chance of eventually seeing the work in print, or between covers."
Have you let your finished manuscript marinate for a while before that final once over? Tweet me @: maria_mckeknzie. Thanks for stopping by!