Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Comfy Words: Manuscripts You Can Enjoy

By Mary Vee

The alarm went off at 5:30 am this morning.

Being an organized person, I’d hung my outfit for work on the doorknob last night before crawling into bed. Once dressed, I made a final inspection in the mirror. To my horror, I found a stain on the sleeve. Nothing dramatic, but definitely noticeable.

I spent the next fifteen minutes tossing shirts on my bed--too bold, too dressy, to plain, too tight, too baggy—and then the perfect shirt appeared. I gazed in the mirror at the perfect outfit for the day.

Each rejected shirt has had the perfect time and place to be worn. Today wasn’t the day. I slipped passed my writing nook and thought of each manuscript I’d sent to a publisher. Like the shirts, each manuscript has had the perfect time and place to be used, some are designed only for me. My job is to prepare each work to be suitable.

The comfy flannel-shirt manuscript:

My first novel, written a few years ago, still sits on my desktop. I love this story. I get a comfy feeling when reading this adventure. Its like putting on a soft, warm flannel shirt at the end of an intense work day.

A new flannel shirt, fresh out of the package, feels stiff, somewhat scratchy, and is laden with wrinkles. If I'm willing to invest time, I can enjoy it's potential comforts. First, I'd remove straight pins and fluff the fabric then wash and dry the garment using detergent and fabric softener. Soon after I can enjoy my soft, warm, and relaxing flannel shirt.

The first draft of my manuscript read like a freshly bought shirt. Dialogues sounded stiff, descriptions scratchy, and I found wrinkles in time.

While taking a writing course, I discovered some helpful tips:

**My teacher suggested I remove extraneous words. Although they seemed crucial to the story, they actually restricted the free movement of my plot. Dialogue tags, adverbs, and restating sentences poked and pinched me as I deleted them like the straight pins in my flannel shirt.

I reread my work and noticed a marked difference, but still, it sounded stiff.

**My teacher suggested I read my words out loud to determine if the dialogue flowed. To my surprise, the words sputtered and staggered from my lips as though I were a ma--chine--read--ing--words. Scene by scene I rewrote character's words as they would have spoken. Their actions came to life!

Again I reread my work and noticed a mark difference, but found the settings seemed scratchy and time skipped like a wrinkle in fabric.

**My teacher suggested I vision each scene like a movie. Could I see, hear, feel, taste, and smell each scene? Did I have transitions teleporting one scene smoothly to the next?

By taking the time to "wash and dry" my new manuscript through an editing process, the characters and I’ve developed a comfortable relationship. I suppose if they were real they'd walk into my living room some evening. We’d sit in front of the fireplace sharing stories and laugh—maybe cry, too. I’d probably have to ask the antagonist to leave soon after he arrived to prevent a disasterous sword fight.

I'm confident these comrades cringed when the rejection notice came. Marcus, the protagonist, would have thrashed the parchment, it I let him. Sometimes, when I listen closely, I hear them whisper words of encouragement. Other times I find notes from them, secretly embedded in other books. Each time I edit or modify my first-born manuscript it radiates warmth—like a comfy flannel shirt. Whether this story is published someday or not, it will always be my favorite.

What is your favorite manuscript? How did this manuscript help you through the first baby steps of your writing journey? Perhaps your words will help another take "one giant leap for mankind".

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15

Next week: The dressy-shirt manuscript.


Unknown said...

I love that. I have an old manuscript like that. I doubt anyone will ever read it, but I'm sentimental about it.

Patti Lacy said...

This is an AMAZING post. Where in the world do you get such creativity???!!

Wait! I know!!! The Author of All Things.

Thanks for helping me know what to pack in my suitcase for China! COMFORTABLE CLOTHES AND BOOKS!!!

Blessings, dear one.

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, what a great analogy. My comfy flannel-shirt manuscript is my first as well. I love that story and those characters. The manuscript still has lots of wrinkles and stiffness to be worked out, but I don't care. It's there for me to enjoy, even if no one else appreciates its unique beauty.

I relate to your characters whispering to you. Mine become very real to me and chatter all the time. What's so cool is that my husband and daughter understand that. Before she headed off to college last September, the Fashion Queen, used to come home from school as ask, "How are John and Margaret today?"

What gets interesting, though, are when two of my characters from different stories begin talking at the same time. Recently Ellie from my work-in-progress wanted me to focus on her story, but Becky from the one I'll move on to next was eager for me to spend time with her. Since Ellie's story is the one I'm rewriting under my agent's guidance, I had to tell sweet Becky her turn is coming. Bless her kind heart, she understood.

Do you ever have two different characters or stories vying for your attention? If so, how do you deal with it?

Casey said...

That is just great, Mary!! I really enjoyed reading and agree with Patti (hi!!) about God giving you creativity. :)

Hmm, I don't have a favorite manuscript. My last one just made me anxious to work on it. Never could figure out to fix it. But the one I am currently working on is my favorite- for now. LOL! :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Well, since I only have ONE, I would say it is my first one! lol Seriously, I absolutely love the story, but know this first try is not good. Maybe someday I will get it washed enough to wear comfortably.

Great post, Mary!!!!!

Mary Vee Writer said...

My main protagonists from two WIP's are sneaky in how they vie for my attention. They're boys.

Krista Phillips said...

LOVED this post Mary!! Mmm, my favorite manuscript. That's hard! I only have 2 completed, and I like them both. I think I REALLY like a partial though, I'm not that far into it, but I love the story line, ha!

My first one... I LOVE... It does feel like a well worn shirt, LOL! But I think sometimes you get tired of wearing the same ole shirt and just want to jazz it up a little bit. LOL

But, I still love it, and I still would LOVE to see it sell someday!