Hot Potato: Let that Manuscript Cool Off

You type, “The End.”
Then, you write a fast letter to an editor and send off a couple sample chapters.

Oops!
You forgot one thing. That manuscript needs to cool off before you send it out.
It is the single, hardest thing for me to do. I do not want to wait and besides that, I KNOW the revisions I just did are fantastic and the editor will be dying to read it. Yes? No.

Sadly, I send out material before it is ready. When I wait and read something even a week later, I find so many more things to revise.

Repeated words. Subconsciously, I fall in love with this word or that and it repeated endlessly. I don’t notice this unless the mss has rested a while and then, the words stick out like pimples. My goal is to cut that repetition to a single instance. After all, a single pimple isn’t bad, it’s the allover pimple face that’s bad. Two words I constantly overuse are bit and whirl: She whirled around a bit before settling down. Not bad, until she whirls 13.5 times per chapter.

Spelling and Grammar. OK, all you grammar witches. I know you are out there, because you email me all the time. My blog posts tend to be more off the cuff and I pay for it in humiliation every time a Grammar Witch reports in. (NOTE: I LOVE you, Grammar Witch. I am yours to command. I just WISH I had your eye for detail.) My remedial Grammar Witch glasses only work well when a mss has cooled off a while. Then, things pop out at me.

Darcy, sporting slightly askew Grammar Witch Glasses.


Pacing. I am much better at spotting pacing problems after something has cooled off. It is the places where I–the author–lose interest and start skimming. Oh, that’s bad when I can’t even keep myself entertained. On the other hand, I often find places to slow down, to zoom in and let the reader feel more emotions. Either way, I need the story to sit a while before I can spot these.

Vague, Unsettled Dissatisfaction. It’s hard to say exactly what this is, because it varies with each manuscript. Just–something is wrong. Off. I can usually pinpoint what that is and fix it. But when I can’t do that immediately, I start analysis, such as the Shrunken Manuscript or using other tools from Novel Metamorphosis. Because I must find and fix whatever it is. Usually–there’s something and it’s not a minor something. I just can’t see it right away.

What about you? Do you let a manuscript cool off?

Distance

Reading a Critique of My Novel is. . .

painful. It’s necessary. It’s helpful. But it’s painful. So, I’ve developed an avoidance strategy that helps me deal with the pain. No, I don’t avoid the critique altogether, because Continue reading

Endless Revisions?

How Many Times Do you Revise?

When do novel or picture book revisions ever end? I’m always a new person, with a bit more knowledge and a bit more life under my belt. I could always make changes to the story. When do you know it’s time to submit your baby?

  • My Best. When I’ve done everything I can right now. I try to revise as many times as necessary to get it right. If I’m happy with the story as it is, and I can’t think of anything else to try. And when I do try, it seems to mess it up, then I quit. For me, there’s also an emphasis on RIGHT NOW. Ten years from now, I’d do the story different, but RIGHT NOW (which is the only time we really have), I’ve done my best.
  • Cool off. When I’ve let it sit for a while and still can’t figure out anything to do. Now this? I’m not so good at letting it sit. I want it out and accepted and published! But rejections have forced me to get better about letting a mss cool off. Time sometimes shows you what you couldn’t see before and you’ll know exactly where to revise. It might even, if you’re lucky, give you the right approach to improve the mss.
  • Critique Group. When my critique group agrees with me. Ha! That doesn’t happen often enough. Sometimes critique groups make me feel like I’m back in junior high gossiping. As my son says, I don’t like all the drama. BUT, for the sake of my mss, I not only put up with it, but I encourage it. I need it. After a gossip session, though, I go away and consider and process and then approach a revision my way. Sometimes, it incorporates ideas from others, but in a different way or with my own twist. If I’m wise, though, I wait until my critique group likes the novel or picture book mss and then I send it out.
  • Never. Some old novels and picture book mss are still in my file drawer. They need massive rewrites, I know. But for various reasons, they’ll never get what they deserve: the impulse for the story is gone, the story isn’t marketable today, I’m bored with the characters/voice/setting/plot/whatever. OK, I’ll admit it. Some sit because some critiquer made a remark that stopped me cold. Some sit because I don’t believe myself capable of doing the story justice. Some sit because, well, just because. Not all stories are meant to be shared with the world.

Be brave! Submit.