by Sioux Roslawski
Sometimes writers benefit from a checklist. With my recently-finished manuscript in hand, I was checking off boxes all willy-nilly on my checklist. And my checklist, like everything else in life, I was doin' Sioux-style.
Print off my manuscript—all 153 pages and 82,814 words of it—just because I want to see the stack of papers in all its black and white glory (and because I love using big binder clips)? Check.
Send off my manuscript to a great editor-friend before it's truly ready? Check.
Beg—and convince—my writing critique group to read it, even though it's a hot mess? Check.
Decide that really, it's ready to send to a publisher because it's just that good, even though none of my beta readers have finished it nor have they given me feedback, but what a time-saver it will be because I can snag a publishing contract while my friends are still affixing (all glowing) post-its on the pages of my manuscript? Check. Then, uncheck.
Read the comments my critique group members have sent me? Realize they are saying the same thing I was telling myself—deep down inside? Understand that within the hot mess is something worthwhile? Check. Check. Check.
In the last six months I've floated down the river Denial. I've arrived at the lake of Reality. And I now realize that—probably like most novel-writing authors (except for writers like Jodi Picoult and Joe Hill—grrrr!)—I have lots of hard work ahead as I delete tens of thousands of words . . . as I begin my story from a different point of view . . . as I begin from (almost) scratch.
Now what I can check off my checklist—with lots of personal experience—mustering the momentum necessary to complete a manuscript. My WIP took almost as long as it took Harper Lee to write her classic. And yet hers has lived on for decades, and mine is threatening to self-combust.
As I begin to begin the revising, the deconstructing, I understand that I only saw the snarky, snort-worthy parts, the poignant parts that I was sure would move the reader—I couldn't see my story (the forest). I couldn't see that it lacked a cohesiveness, that it only made sense to me.
Now I'm making a new checklist: Determine the point of view. Create a story arc. Make the story more me (which means there will be generous servings of snark).
It'll be a good long while before I can check things off on this to-do list. But I'm patient . . .
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