Dear Misbehaving Manuscript,

It’s not you it’s me. Okay, so maybe it is you. We’ve been together for two months now and honestly there were points when I loved you. Oh we used to be so good together! Remember that time we added 3,300 words to our word count in one afternoon? Remember that time we laughed over that little joke in chapter three? Or the times I thought we were going so strong that nothing could break us apart?

What happened to us? There are some days when I don’t even want to work on you. Days when you cause my characters to say boring things and do stupid stuff. Times when there are so many typos you could have been written by a sleepy second grader.

Le-sigh…Even though right now you are causing me to want to pull my hair out, I still believe in you. In us. And I won’t give up on you. At least not today. So please stop misbehaving or I might be forced to punish you by… inserting so much purple prose even Stephanie Meyer would be jealous? ( His eyes were like the clearest of diamonds, sharp enough to cut through her tender heart and bruise her sweetly innocent soul.)  Or  I could end every sentence with an exclamation point? You wouldn’t like that, would you?!!!! Maybe I should let my grandmother read you? “He put his what, where?! Really, Jamie!” (How does one punish a manuscript anyway?) Regardless of what I do, what I won’t do is give up on you, no matter how badly you tick me off. So shape up. Pretty please.

Love always,

 Your crazy writer Jamie.

Am I crazy? Absolutely. But all writers go through a time when they are just not getting along with their WIPs. So how do you renew the magic? I do what many writer’s are loathed to do. I stop wherever I am and go back. Sometimes all the way to the beginning(AH!) and read it all over to see what I liked about it, what I think can be improved and to check to see if things are going the way I planned. This way I can fix it before I do major damage.  But most of the time it’s not the big stinking mess I think it is. Having an honest critique partner you trust or a good mentor is also helpful. Sometimes just to cheer you on or the steer you in the right direction.

Sharing time! I want to know what you do when your manuscript is misbehaving. Do you write it a letter? Do you take a break? Move on? Cry a little? Drink? Play Angry Birds? Tell your friends. Any and all comments are welcome.

12 thoughts on “Dear Misbehaving Manuscript,”

  1. This is priceless, Jamie. And sooo true!

    I fall in love with my mss. for the first fifty pages. Once that honeymoon phase wears off, then the work begins, the whining starts, the angst and self doubt rears it’s ugly head and I drag my butt kicking and screaming to the keyboard. I sludge through the next hundred pages hoping to enjoy moments of clarity, small epiphanies, and those wonderful “aha” moments. Then everything comes to a screeching halt when I hit the “sagging middle.” That’s about the time I step back, reassess, make sure my characters are doing what they need to do, look at my turning points and see if I’m heading in the right direction, and pray a lot. That’s also about the point where procrastination becomes my nemesis and it’s like pulling teeth to forge ahead. When I’m finally in the homestretch, that’s when things zoom along again and I feel like we were meant for each other and know we’re on the right track. But boy is it painfully hard work…worth it, but not easy. Just like relationships.

  2. I loved this! And oh so, true. Characters who were once your bff, turn on you, and won’t do anything you tell them to do. The book I’m about to write the last chapter for, did the same thing to me almost halfway through. No matter what I did, it didn’t behave. So I gave it a time out. Sent it to it’s cyber room, and worked on something else. With time to clear the air, things went better when we got back together. A lesson learned.

  3. I love this post. It’s so true! I just started an new book on Saturday so I’m in the early love phase. But you know me, already the doubt monster is trying to mess me up. What I’ve done in the past is just keep going forward, no looking back. Since I’m a plotter, I already know where the story is supposed to go and that does make it easier when you hit the dreaded middle. I don’t have to stop and re-assess. My “relationship” issues usually start after the first draft is done – then I push it away with an “I’m so sick of you.” attitude. After I give the book a rest (usually a month or two), I can edit it without hating it.

  4. Too true, and I think all writers go through this phase. I’m the same way when it happens to me. Stop, go back as far as needed and fall back in love by spending more time together. I read what’s already written, listen to my specific-to-this-book playlist, look over my story collage, etc, and if that doesn’t do it, then it’s time to corner a writer friend and blabber at them until things fall into place and I’m feeling the connection again.

  5. It’s funny because it’s true. And you don’t want to give up on those misbehaving MSS, in fact, you can’t. They won’t let go of you and won’t leave you alone until you set them straight. Maybe, I’ll try writing a letter to mine and see if that works. 🙂

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