Friday Speak Out!: See the Forest—Not Just the Gorgeous Trees

Friday, May 09, 2014
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 . . .

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher, a freelance writer, a dog rescuer for Love a Golden and a future novelist. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Not Your Mother Book collections. More of her writing can be found at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Linda O'Connell said...

you have invested so much sweat equity on this manuscript, don't stop now. After all, revision is part of the writing process. A local author once spoke to our group. He said his editor rejected 75% of his manuscript, but that didn't stop him. Writing requires tenacity. You've got what it takes.

Anonymous said...

Do you know how many people who say they want to write a book actually finish the book? Only about 5%. You've accomplished a huge thing, and you're committed enough to edit and revise to make it better, which makes you even more awesome. :)

Val said...

Maybe you should put it in a drawer for a month, then take it out and start revising. Perhaps you're too close to it now, after pushing to get it ready. With school out in the summer, you'll have more time.

Or you can dive right in! Who am I to give advice? I've never written a book.

Tammy said...

Lisa's right. You already have a completed first draft, and that is so impressive. To me the hardest part is not having the right direction, but you have that. All you have to do is go full steam ahead. Great post, by the way!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Writing DOES take tenacity, and you are proof of that. You are constantly revising and submitting and resubmitting. Thanks for your encouragement and your gentle editor's touch.

Lisa--Thank you. Is it really only 5%, or are you just trying to make me feel better? ;)

Val--Actually, the WWWPs lit a fire under my fat butt--they gave me some invaluable suggestions and directions on where the story should go--so I am glad to get back at it. This summer I'm teaching an intense summer college class (4 days a week for four weeks, all day) but I DO hope to get some work done on the revision.

But you should write a book. You at least have enough in your head to create rollicking rants and vignettes.

Tammy--If I ever get it revised and anything ever "happens" to it (like it ever seeing the light of day), it is because of the WWWPs. You ladies gave me a wealth of suggestions and directions I could take it--and granted me permission to make it more of MY story. Thank you again.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

You are standing in a place where all things are possible. You started out with one version of your story in your head. You got another version down on paper. You have the chance to create a third version that is better than either of the other two. You can do it!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--They say the third time is a charm...Let's hope that's true.

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