Occasionally you hear of authors scraping entire manuscripts or making massive, time sucking changes. Maybe it was the need to switch from third person close POV to first. Or perhaps they decided to cut a character or start from an entirely different place. I had heard of cases like this and seen the frustrating and emotional social media posts. I had read the authors notes in which the writer bemoans the number of drafts and thanks their editor and significant other for tirelessly supporting them when they didn’t think they were going to live to see the other side of the project.
But like an idiot I thought “that will never happen to me”. It was not an intentionally arrogant thought. I did not think I was better than these other authors, I just… I don’t know… didn’t think I’d be willing to throw away hours, months, or even years of work.
Call it karma or the boomerang effect, if you will, but I’m currently finding myself in the very place I’d never thought I’d be. That Guardians novel I’ve been telling you about FOREVER? The one that is all about the northern lights and controlling elements of the natural world? The one that takes place in Iceland? The one that I just finished the 6th draft of!?!?!? Yes, that one. It’s… broken.
Critiquers dislike my favorite parts. I don’t know how to end it. I’m not sure I like my main character, let alone love her the way an author should. At a one-day conference earlier this month I got a wild hair of an idea to change the main character… completely… I’d thought about giving the story over to another voice and mind and history altogether.
But to be honest, I don’t know what to do… or how to… fix it. I’m not even sure that I can manage the task alone. And although I know there is no shame in that fact, I’m feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped.
So, what am I going to do?
Before I made the decision to break up (temporarily) with my manuscript I thought about counseling. Expensive counseling. Here were my options.
#1 Go through another round of manuscript evaluation from Author Accelerator. The first time I sent this manuscript there I got a lot of excellent feedback… nine single spaced pages of it! Maybe my editor there would have some helpful ideas.
#2 Go to Weekend With Your Novel. Not only would I get professional help from book whisperer Christine DeSmet (whom regional writers SWEAR by), but I would also have the eyes of about ten other writer participants and their thoughts.
#3 Apply to the SCBWI Mentorship Program. This program partners authors up one on one with volunteer veteran writers to help them with an unpublished project. This program comes with rave reviews and results, including the middle grade author participant in 2018 winning the manuscript of the year contest.
#4 I could continue to struggle solo and work on the project by myself.
#5 I could do nothing.
Options one and two come with about a $700 price tag. Option #3 is free, but does not come with guaranteed acceptance. Option #4 is scary. Option #5 is depressing. Options 1 and 2 are in the very near future and #3 wouldn’t start for several months. Options #4 and 5 could last… forever.
So, what am I going to do?
I’m going to take a break, not from writing, but from this project. I’m going to gather all of my notes and critiques, as well as my ideas for DRAFT #7 and put them in my file cabinet with a pristinely printed copy of draft 6.
And then? I’m not going to touch it (or even look at it) until January 2019… at the earliest. This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I felt like my manuscript and I were breaking up. It’s not you… it’s me. I can’t get my shit together. I can’t figure out how to work with you, and if I’m being honest… I’ve felt this way for quite some time. You are making me feel bad about myself and my lack of abilities. (Does any of this sound familiar?!?!)
I don’t have the heart or energy to fix this story... right now. It is going to need a lot of attention and will demand the very best of me… and at this time I do not that to give… to THIS PROJECT SPECIFICALLY. If I am, by some stroke of luck and fortunate fate, selected for the SCBWI Mentorship program, I will graciously accept and take any help, insight or advice given to me. (Finger crossed!!) But until the recipients are announced, or if I am not selected, I know what I need to do. I am going to put this manuscript into a drawer. I’m telling myself that this is okay. That I am not the only one who has ever been in this position. I’m certain I’m not. Rather than feel defeated I am going to be proud of myself for listening to my instincts not to push forward. To not self-publish a book I know it not it’s best… YET. I’m going to take a break until I know I’m ready to give it my all again.
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