Turning in a Manuscript

Lots of people think meeting a deadline and turning in a manuscript is the goal for a writer. Not so. That’s somewhere in the middle of the long road to publication – and publication, even for a previously-published author – should never be taken for granted.

The hardest part of writing a novel is starting. Usually I take a break between projects. I have to go back into “training” when I start again. Think of someone who exercises daily and then stops for weeks, possibly months. You must re-condition your body, stretching and strengthening those weakened muscles. The same thing is true of writing. It’s hard work getting back into a rhythm and flow of words and sentences, creating characters that live and breathe and tell their own story.

It can be especially hard for a “pantser”(writing by the seat of your pants without an outline). I have no idea where I’m going with a story other than a central question that starts the quest. Characters come, and I make a loose outline as a proposal, but it takes time to get to know the people in the story. I write down ideas and make the loose outline. So, I am neither a pantser nor a plotter, but somewhere between the two. I will say a plotline can feel like prison bars and writing by the seat of my pants often takes me down winding roads into the wilderness.

I’ve been at work on my current WIP since before COVID. I had decided to rewrite an old B.C. from a Christian POV – a work showing my thinking before I knew Jesus and after I gave Him my life. With the COVID SIP all trips were canceled. Any distractions like parks, movie theaters, restaurants, malls, and other places we might go for R&R were shut down. Hence, I’ve had plenty of time to work. And I’ve had a lot of fun with this project. It is my COVID book with many of the things we’ve weathered during this time of being held captive by a virus and state government mandates.

Now, it’s time to hand off the manuscript and begin the long process of revision work. I’ve been very close to this story, so close I won’t see the weakness and areas that need further development, or characters that might need more attention. This is where agent and editors are a blessing. We all want the book to be the best it can be. I will have time away from work, time to refresh and come back with clearer vision. I learn from every project. In my opinion, a writer is always an apprentice.

Isn’t that true of all of us? To live is to grow. Just as every story I write is a work-in-process, so am I.