Happy First Birthday To My Manuscript

On April 9, 2012 I was at a continuing education seminar (Y-A-W-N) for lawyers, doodling on my notepad.  I could picture a scene: a young lawyer is trying to survive the recession at her BigLaw firm when a file comes across her desk– she would be representing someone from her past.  I could imagine it all– her panic about billable hours, the general suckiness of sitting around with a bunch of dickheads waiting to be laid off, and this interruption from her past.

Work in progress

Work in progress

That scene I saw in my head turned into the first chapter I wrote in my book (working title, Transference, a reference to the psychological phenomenon whereby patients fall in love with their therapists– NOT that I am writing from experience).  Word by word I inched along over the summer and fall and found myself developing the idea for a full-length novel.  I did all the things you are supposed to do when you want to be a novelist: I joined a writing group, I tried to be a better speller, I joined websites for writers, and I became obsessed with Stephen King’s On Writing.

I submitted that first chapter to my writing group.  The universal feedback was that there “too much exposition” and not enough action.  They were nice enough to avoid throwing “show don’t tell” at me.  I didn’t necessarily know how to fix it, but I understood what they were saying.  Later, one of my closest friends disclosed her opinion after reading that first chapter: “I thought your book was ‘meh.'”

AWESOME stuff, people.

I kept writing.

Each month I showed up for my writing group (and leaving almost suicidal for how exposed I felt in my writing and in my desire to do it well).  I added characters– a boyfriend in the second half, an alcoholic-but-decent-hearted mother in the first.  It started to feel like a real bookish thing.  Around New Year’s I decided it should be written in first person, even though I had 80,000 words in the third person.   But it felt too cold.  I needed “I” statements for heat.

In March I turned over the full manuscript– all 80,1010 words– to my writing group.  I await the feedback from those beloved BETA readers. In my weaker moments I want to send them iPads or Kindles so they will love the book more, but I let those urges pass because EXPENSIVE.

Did I mention we are meeting this morning?

You know how I am honestly looking at this? I think of my book like a fetus.  The group will help me see if there is a heartbeat.  Meaning, this is one of those early appointments. We aren’t doing gender or kidneys or fingers & toes.  It’s simply whether there is a viable fetus.

Sometimes I picture the “Acknowledgements” page when I am drifting off to sleep.  “Thank you to Jeff and Sadie and Simon….To Jeffrey….To Joyce and Sara….To Carinn….to my parents…To Dolly Parton and Adele and Sigmund Freud…” (If I have insomnia, I name almost everyone who ever existed.)

No doubt there are miles ahead for me and this book, but I am pausing here at this milestone–the one-year marker– and giving a big kiss of gratitude up to the Heavens for how far I have already come.

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58 thoughts on “Happy First Birthday To My Manuscript

  1. A friend who will give an honest opinion, even if that opinion isn’t the one you want to hear is a very good friend to have.

    You are a great writer – I’ve been blown away by many of your posts.

  2. I’m so proud of you for finishing your novel. And for being willing to get it out there so you can see what needs fixing and fix it. And I know I will be proud that it’s finished and published, whenever that happens. You are amazing, your writing is amazing. Your novel will be too.

  3. Congrats! just writing it is a big step. I’ve been writing the same novel for 2 years and keep getting stuck and then decide to start something new. I doubt I will ever finish any of them. but, I keep writing.

  4. Good luck today! Your writing is amazing, and I’m proud of you for making it this far. I hope you get some great and helpful notes.

  5. Good for you for getting this far! Many, many of us have never committed 80,000 word to paper for one project, so you’re already way ahead by finishing your first draft!

  6. I’m a mess for you, even though it sounds like it’s all for nothing. You have the ideal perspective going into this day. Is it viable? Will it grow and change and become your baby? Or will it be an experience from which you grow as a writer and move on? From what I’ve seen I would be devastated if you didn’t carry to term, but that’s not for me to decide. You are an amazing writer, with endless ideas and I have no doubt I will be at your book signing. You have everything it takes. I’ve seen it.

  7. Congratulations on finishing you novel, this is so exciting! As a current big firm lawyer trying to survive the post-recession, I definitely want to read that story. As a matter of fact, as a current big firm lawyer whose closest (and only) friend at work just became a post-recession victim, I wish I could read that story right now. Good luck today, you (and your novel) will sparkle. I’ll be thinking about you!

    • Thank you! The recession is to lawyers what the glaciers are to the Great Plains. Sorry your friend was liberated…. It’s a gateway to something better! It sucks when friends leave.

  8. amazing what you can accomplish!! so much writing!! i hope they love it. it’s so so hard taking critic – probably why all my manuscripts, are under my bed. but you’re in it to win it, dawg!! you’ll make it happen. 🙂

  9. I am SUPER excited about your book. Any book, because I love your writing. I’m sure whatever you write will be great. Also, I totally did not imagine that this would be the kind of book that you would write. Which is weird because I actually don’t know what kind of book I DO imagine you writing. Maybe something about parenting and mental health… You know, like your blog exactly. Some imagination I have, right? This is why the novel writing is best left to you and not me. And now I’m rambling. Best to end this.

  10. But hey — you finished a first draft, and that’s huge! I’m still trying to write stuff that’s over 2000 words, and find a writing group myself. If you don’t pat yourself on the back, I’ll do it for you — but not in a weird way. Just a reminder to give yourself the credit you deserve.

  11. I’m blown away that you blog so well and so often AND wrote a novel. I’d like to believe that it’s explained by you neglecting your kids, but that’s obviously not true either. Just WOW.

  12. Good, useful feedback is the best thing ever. I’m faced with a huge overall where I need to combine two characters and change some back story and completely redo timeline and give two characters actual progress and make everyone sound distinct and take out the ludicrous and show not tell and allow at least one person to be happy. If possible, by tomorrow. Because I love the process, but damn. It should be so obvious, the feedback. I should have seen it all myself.
    Oy with this avocation.

      • That’s why I so love honest feedback. One friend spent hours telling me everything illogical characters did or said. And I loved it. She was right on all of them.

      • NOw that’s a good friend and a good reader!!! I am not that good at reading closely so I hope people for whom I have read forgive me for being less exacting. It’s nothing personal, I just suck at that. Plus, I like everything to be illogical.

  13. I did a whiney blog this week pissing and moaning (excuse me) about my manuscript and feeling stalled. I have been at the process for about 8 months. I think you may have snapped me out of my editorial funk! Thanks, Zoe

    • The rework is hard. I haven’t touched it since yesterday. It’s brewing. I had some awesome ideas this morning at 4am, but I’ll be damned if I have any idea what they are right now. Go you with your edit!

      • I have to say the rewrite is hard but GO YOU for completing the first phase…I gotta start carrying a note book for the problem you mention above. I had a developmental edit of the work done and it was amazingly helpful from “meh”to “wow.” I mention this because it helped me to refocus myself some and it gave me written ideas to go back to…really worth the cost!

  14. I am so happy for you! That’s HUGE! And that’s a great way to look at it – like a fetus – and does this thing have a heartbeat. Your words remind me of what a long term commitment fiction writing really takes. I think that was one of my downfalls when I was pursuing it. It’s lifelong – if there is a heartbeat as well. I can’t wait to see how this progresses for you!

    • Oh, if you read it right now, you would fall over dead and I’d have to feel all that guilt. But when I get that shaped up, I want you all over it like Strunk and White and Grammarbelle. Oh yes I do.

      On Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 10:16 AM, Outlaw Mama

  15. Pingback: What’s My Manuscript Missing? (Hint: Sex) | Outlaw Mama

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