Following Through Versus Starting Anew (Am I Cheating On My Manuscript?)

The biggest problem for me (I think) when it comes to my current manuscript is that I am so over it. Writing it in the first place was monumentally difficult and yet I had to tell the story. There was a driving force there – and many times I could not type fast enough while other times I had to sit and let the story wash over me, take a breath and then begin again. Either way, my tale was told. And now, after sixteen months of writing, setbacks, rewriting, editing, revising, and select reader feedback I can see how far my manuscript draft has come… and how much further it has left until it is ready. And that is maddening.

I have two other book ideas that keep screaming at me, yelling to be released and to be put to the page, but I fear I cannot split my energies between two projects – it wouldn’t be fair to either of them. Revisiting my manuscript is a chore now, and I want that chore to be finished, not even yesterday, more like last week. I don’t want to dread going through a chapter for the twelfth time and yet I do. Right now, I am about 2/3 done with the official 2.0 version as I am calling it, and my manuscript is 241,260 words. By the time I finish version 2.0 I hope it is no longer than 230,000 words, though ideally 220,000 words would be even better. (I am not holding my breath on that though.) It started out at 340,930 words and the longest ideal length for the final polished manuscript is 130,000 words – yep, feel my pain…

Blog 25 Revise

I feel like I am at my wit’s end with the manuscript and want to break down and just send it to a professional editor. Of course since editors charge on time (even charging based on page count is a formula based on time) I was hoping my manuscript would be much shorter because I am far from well off and quality editing is worth its weight in gold, but not exactly cheap. What is even worse is that I have an editor in mind, but I know it will be awhile before she can review my manuscript. (She just had a baby and I know she had standing list of clients before I even threw my name in the hat.) I cannot sit idle when it comes to my manuscript without going crazy, but I do not know what more I can do for my manuscript. At least, not until I have a pair of fresh and experienced eyes go through it and give me the brutal truth (though I am hoping the brutal truth is not very brutal at all).

Then there is the fact that I have kept two fully formed ‘write me now!’ book ideas at bay for three months. To be honest, I have never had the problem of writer’s block unless it was a physical side effect of medical problems or treatments (namely strokes, shunt malfunctions and dialysis). The problem I have always dealt with is having too much to write. For people who deal with writer’s block, they may wonder where the problem in this is. For one thing, it makes it difficult to fully commit to a single project because I have several ideas vying for my complete attention. These are not just sparks of inspiration, but plots with developed characters, chapter outlines and even several random scenes, ready to be connected and fleshed out. The other problem is that if I focus enough to begin one idea, I hardly ever follow it through to the end. I have dozens of first drafts (short stories, flash fiction, a novella, poetry collections, two television shows with the show’s bible and at least one completed episode script) and even more projects that I started and only stopped because another project took control and therefore priority (short story collections, essay collections, memoir/essays, and several novels including two to three book series).

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In many aspects, my current manuscript is my greatest accomplishment simply because it is my first full-length manuscript that has been completed and revised multiple times. It is the first thing I have ever considered submitting anywhere. It is the first project where I can see the end of its journey and the destination is that it ends up in print (and on a bestseller list wouldn’t be bad either). I feel like working on anything else is borrowing trouble and also feel like I am cheating on my manuscript or holding it up when I should be pushing it forward – and at the same time I am not sure how much more I can do for it without getting outside help.

I feel like I shouldn’t start something new until an agent takes on my manuscript (and after I have made all of the revisions she or he asks for, and have perfected a book proposal) and yet who knows how far off that is going to be. I can’t work on anything new until then???

So, I keep going back and forth, follow through or start anew? I want to see my manuscript through to the end without splitting my focus or starting another project (I will see it through, regardless), but at the same time how long should I hold out and at what point do I acknowledge I really can’t do anything else for my manuscript except to send it to another professional or take ‘a break’ and get some space? Anyone have the answers?

-DMW

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