So you typed the words, The End
Remember that first manuscript you finished? The one you thought was going to rocket to the top of the bestselling lists? Sure you do. I remember that day. Queries went out and I sat back waiting to watch the big 5 publishers fight over the rights to the book. The query hooked a few interested publishers, partial and full submissions followed – then the strangest thing happened. Nothing.
I shouldn’t say nothing. What actually happened was the dreaded R word. Rejection. My masterpiece was going nowhere. Could the literary world be so shallow as to not recognize the potential here? A few comments back from publishers along the lines of, “Needs more editing,” or the softer version, “Not what we’re looking for.” Editing? I made sure there were periods and comma and shit.
This Is Not Editing
After a few months of trolling, I gave up and filed the manuscript away to write other stuff. Flash forward six years, along the way, I got published and most importantly kept writing.
Recently, I pulled that old manuscript out of the drawer and it felt like excavating a time capsule, or some buried Inca treasure from the jungle. Maybe it was time to “just go through and update the beast” and send it back out into the world.
I found the old Word file and felt like Indiana Jones preparing to gaze into a bejeweled treasure. Instead, I got something much more valuable.
It was less than stellar.
Okay, it sucked.
It sucked bad.
This couldn’t be the right version. I checked and this smelly pile of adverb gruel was the version I sent out. Holy crap. The shocking sense of dread that coursed though my spine was like I’d been caught peeing on an electric fence. I sent this out with my name on it. Gag.
It couldn’t be that bad, you say? There, there…
I started a line by line edit and this will be a full rewrite, if I’m to make something from this sow’s ear. There was so much head hopping from character to character it made my head spin. There was a plot, several of them…so pick one, you idiot and stick with it. The pages were full of awkward word choices, stilted sentence construction and dialogue that would send an insomniac into a deep coma. Then, there were the characters – flat, unchanging and unbothered by any motivation to do anything. Who cares about them? By ten chapters in, I wanted them all to die horrible, horrible, ink splattering deaths.
What happened? This manuscript didn’t get worse sitting in the bottom of a drawer for six years. It stunk all along. I have the ability to see that now. What the hell was I thinking, back then?
If I can restructure, revise and revamp this manuscript remains to be seen. It may take more time and effort than writing an entirely new story, or more than it’s worth. I may have to accept that I needed to put that work in, early on, to get to the point where I’m more comfortable behind the key board and can smell the stinky stuff.
I’m so happy I didn’t press the self publish button…
Have you come to the point where a manuscript is beyond your attempts of life support?