Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"come on, baby, let's start new": on getting back together

So it's been a few months since you and your manuscript broke up. At first, it was great—the freedom! the not-needing-to-share-your-sandwich-with-anyone! But lately, you've found your thoughts drifting back to the good times. Remembering all the cute things your manuscript used to do. Playing back those sweet sentences in your head. And you get to wondering what your manuscript is up to these days.

Your best friends say you're crazy. They point out that, mere months ago, you did nothing but whine about it. You and your manuscript used to bicker over the stupidest things. Your manuscript couldn't even bring up That Subplot (you know the one) without making you sulk for hours. Let's face it: you fought all the time. That's why you broke up in the first place. What makes you think this time will be any different?

Well, here's why:

"Baby, I've changed."

Before, you were immature. Irresponsible. You'd stumble in at 3 AM to find your manuscript waiting in the kitchen with its arms folded. "I was just out for a good time with my writer-friends!" you'd say. "Aren't I allowed to have fun anymore?"

Now, you make time for your manuscript. You make sure writing comes first. When your gamer friends call you up to play Dungeons & Dragons, you say something snappy like "pages before mages, bro!" When your math friends call you up to do algebra, you say "words before nerds!" When your zombie friends call you up to go staggering through the streets, you say "manuscripts before crypts!"

OK, INTERN's done.

"I'm finally man/woman enough to be with you."

Before, you adored your manuscript, but you just weren't strong enough as a writer to handle the challenges of being in a relationship with it. You didn't know anything about structure, or you thought that having your characters make lengthy speeches was the right way to express your themes. You were head over heels in love with your story idea, but you just couldn't make it work.

Since then, you've read some more books. Written some more stories. Aged a few years. Lived a little. Now, you've finally grown into that story idea like a too-big pair of shoes. You have the skills and insights you lacked before. You've picked up the tools. You've finally become the writer your manuscript needed you to be all along.

"We can work out our problems."

Before, you'd fight with the same old scenes every day, tinkering and tinkering but never making them work. It's the frustration that killed you in the end. The sense that no matter what you did, the manuscript never got any better.

Now, you're taking a broader view. Instead of tinkering with those stupid scenes, you're going to cut them and rewrite. In fact, you're going to cut everything, and you and your manuscript are going to make a fresh start, in a whole new town, where there's less of a chance you'll fall into your old patterns. This time, you're going to have a better plan. A killer outline. Or at least a commitment to work those problems through to the end instead of throwing up your hands in despair.

"Nobody else makes me feel the way you do."

After breaking up with your literary fiction manuscript, you flirted with some historical romances, thinking they'd be "easy". You were sick to death of symbolism and lyricism and all that snobby stuff that made your first manuscript fail, and for a while you ran around with picture books and weight loss guides, anything you could write.

It was fun for a while. But you know what? It also felt empty. You didn't have that passion you had for your literary fiction project—it was all about chasing money, or chasing something. You're ready to go back to your literary manuscript, even though it means hard work. At least it made you feel alive.

"Just give me one more chance."

You get down on one knee with a rose clenched between your teeth.

"TAKE ME BACK!" you say (which makes the rose fall out).

Then you run into each others' arms...


  1. *Starts turning office inside out, feverishly (adverb intended) searching for the bugs INTERN has planted in my writing habitat.*

  2. "I'm so much better online." ~ Brad Paisley. Online I have 3 word docs open, write 3k words before lunch. The old manuscript loves my 400 words/day, doesn't mind if I date social media, as long as I come home. We're perfect together.

  3. When we got back together, my manuscript was delighted to find I'd not only loosened up a good deal, but had picked up a few tricks when seeing that fantasy over the winter.

  4. Hehe this post is hilarious! Awesome analogy. :D

  5. I pulled out a manuscript the other day that I first wrote in 2007. It's time, baby. It's time.

    Brilliant post!

  6. I hope this time manuscript puts out.

  7. I just read this post aloud to the participants in a specfic workshop for teens (Alpha!) that I'm participating in. 'Pages before mages' may become our new motto.