Okay, the truth is, perhaps it's not a pile of poop. Perhaps it's something salvageable. But no one's sure yet.
My first (and perhaps last) manuscript (a chick lit novel) is finished (finally). It's a complicated story (involving several “layers”) and I'm worried I'm so close (and so emotionally attached) that I'm unable to accurately assess its worth.
Too many parenthetical phrases, you say? I imagine the parenthesis density is due to my less-than-sure footing when it comes to this manuscript.
Currently, five writers have it. Three are reading it, one is using it as a doorstop, and the other is going to have a party soon and needs confetti...so, to the shredder it goes. While I wait for their feedback, I'm contemplating the pluses of a finished manuscript, even if the stack of papers end up being one big minus.
What can I learn from a not-even-close-to-stellar manuscript? Ever the optimist, I think there's lots to gain from a gigantic pile of fecal matter.
• I've learned how to keep the momentum going. It's easy (okay—sometimes it's easy) to stay in the groove when a piece is 1,000 words long, but when you're shooting for 80,000, there's lots of times when you sit your butt in the chair—with no idea of what you're going to write—and you write in spite of that.
• I've discovered that when you allow yourself to freefall, you almost always end up making a safe landing. The cool (and the frustrating...and the scary) thing about fiction is when you're a seat-of-the-pants type of writer—like I am—you don't always know where your story is headed. But to finish it, and to be totally immersed in the characters and the plot, you have to be willing to round that corner...blindly.
• I found out that the pesky editor that resides inside my head has to have their mouth duct-taped shut—at least most of the time. To get that many words down on paper—to get that much black on white—a writer has to forge ahead the majority of the time. I would go back at times and tinker with parts, but if I worried about making every single line perfect, I'd still be on page one...after a year and a half of working on it.
• I've learned to appreciate honest feedback (although really, this wasn't a recent discovery). At least one of my beta readers promised that I will need a crash helmet, that her editing will result in a bumpy ride for me. I love that. Hearing what is great about one's writing won't make anyone a stronger writer. However, when weaknesses and areas that could be improved are highlighted, that strengthens our craft.
So, I'm still here—on pins and needles. No feedback yet, but I'm feeling fine—no matter what kind of hurling is hurled onto my manuscript, it has proven to be an invaluable experience.
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