I went to battle with the manuscript and came out the other side. As my previous post explained, I had a novel manuscript of 120,000 words that I needed to cut down to under 100,000 for a publisher to even think about considering reading my e-mail about it. This is not not a new problem. I’ve had this manuscript since 2013, and have tinkered with it on and off over the years. From time to time I would take it out, and determine to cut it down. Sometimes I would post about it on here, thinking that I said it on my blog, it would somehow make it more true. Then I would read the first few pages, get overwhelmed and put it away.
But, one day, at the proper intersection of time and money, I locked myself on a desert island so to speak, for six weeks straight, and went to battle with the manuscript. No internet. No social interaction. No job. Just me, my manuscript, an air mattress, and all the time in the world.
And oh, it was a glorious bloodbath. It was a fight of story arcs, and theme, and structure and subplots. It was a battle of characterization, and backstory, and the right blend of exposition versus dialogue. It was a war on words, the perfect one, versus the average one, and the tone to set it off. It was a battle of openings and closings and good intentions versus what played out on the page. Like any art, writing is a reflection of who you are at the moment, so in my ways the war that raged was who I was in 2013 versus who I am in 2016. It was about how I have changed the way see things in some ways and not others, and most certainly how I have grown as an artist.
Casualties of War included:
-Over 2,000 sheets of printer paper
-2 brand new printer cartridges advertised as “XL ink tank. ”
-1 brand new dry erase marker run completely dry.
-1 pack of index cards
– a full roll of clear tape
– All the erasers on a brand new package of pencils
-4 jumbo bottles of coffee creamer
-1 pound of coffee
-1 box of chips ahoy
-8 six packs of glass Dr. Pepper bottles (I thought they were novel and they brought me back to my early childhood before soft drinks regularly came in plastic bottles).
-Earned 150 Starbucks Reward Points
– Created/Managed or used over 3,100 computer files related to my manuscript.
I am proud to say, that through it all, I came out the victor! My manuscript is now 99,000 words. And I must begrudgingly admit the experience was necessary. My piece is much stronger now, and oddly, the reduced length somehow brought me closer to what I had wanted to say in the first place. Less is more I guess.
I tell you this for several reasons, one of them is for any potential novel writer out there. When you see people write novels on TV, they sit at their computer, type for about three seconds of screen time, then go to scene change. When you come back to them, they are sitting at their computer, looking constipated, with maybe some crumbled paper on the ground, and their agent calls and puts pressure on them. Then they go to a bar or coffee house or something, where they have a personal epiphany that turns out to be the perfect missing angle to their piece, and then they churn out a beautiful manuscript in about five seconds of screen time while the barista hits on them. That is not how it goes. Writing is a war-one where only the strongest draft wins.
Now I just need to find an agent…