Sunday, 16 March 2014

Writing: Don't Try This At Home

I sent in a new manuscript a few weeks ago---a year's effort---and was told that the publisher has decided not to "do" dramas this year. They are focusing on romance and suspense instead. So I'm to put this manuscript away for now. This isn't a refusal. In fact, it's a refusal to refuse. I have to give them another shot at that one in a year or so, to see if they've changed their focus by then. Meanwhile, I need to dash out something else instead to put in their hands by August or September.

Panic. Fury. Desperation. Sorrow. Resignation. What can I do but try to rise to the challenge? So I went into the bedroom and looked at the row of binders on the closet shelf. Other people keep clothes in their closets. I keep books, journals, musical instruments, cans of latex paint, and about twenty-five thick binders of past writing efforts (having outgrown the stuffed filing cabinet ages ago). Was there anything worth reviving from one of these binders that I could polish for Covenant?

What ensued was a week or so of self indulgence, self criticism, and nostalgia while I browsed through my old half-finished works in search of something worth developing. Some dated back to high school, and others were clearly written while I was in the frazzled-new-mother stage. I gotta say, while I think my writing even years ago wasn't that bad, my imagination was downright appalling. What was I thinking when I scribbled some of these? How cliché and predictable can a person get? Did I honestly think these saccharine stories were any good? Where on earth did I get those ideas and why on earth did I actually develop them? More to the point, why have I kept them and hauled them with me from place to place all these years? It's a good thing I can't speak to my younger self, or I would soundly discourage me from ever trying to write anything again. We are our own worst critics...but unfortunately my criticism didn't kick in earlier!

Okay, so once the tears and muttering were over, I decided they weren't all that bad, and from the pile of stuff that needs discarding I have dredged up a couple that I am exploring as possibilities. They will take months of rewriting, and even then I'm not sure the editor will want them. All I can do is dress them up as best I can, slick down their hair, wash their faces, feed them a last good meal, tell them to stand up straight, and march them off to judgment. They deserve a chance at life, at least. It's like launching your children, sending them out to face the cold cruel world armed with nothing but crayons and an aluminum lunch box.

Think about that---I give birth to the thing, but someone else takes charge of it, names it, and sends it out into the world. Once it's in their hands, it's out of mine forever. I've got six months to gestate. It will be a close thing...

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