The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Manuscript

I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I experience ups-and-downs in regard to how I feel about my current WIP – actually, in fact, with everything I’ve written, whether “in progress” or not. Last week, after getting some notes back from my agent, I had a moment, after opening the Word document and beginning the fine-tooth-combing process of final revision tweaks, of what I can only describe as a wave of loathing.

I mean, I was reeeally not fond of this story. “This is shallow as a puddle. And boring. And every sentence I try to write is more tissue-paper flak around this essential pile of crap.”

Part of it is that I’m one month shy of hitting the year mark from when i wrote the very first sentence for this book. Am I not finished yet?!  The other part is that I have the notes and outline and first two chapters of a new manuscript, and that one, I’m convinced, is going to be dazzling immediately  (we’re in the honeymoon stage). I am fickle in my affections, apparently.

Now, I got over it. I got over it by letting my two main characters bicker for a few pages. I deleted most of it, but it reminded me that I did like this story and it didn’t need to win a Pulitzer for me (and other people) to hopefully enjoy it and make it worthwhile. But it made me think how bipolar this whole process is, and how rocky the relationship between creator and creation can be.

First, there’s the idea stage. The meet-cute between you and your future book. Love at first sight.

first sight

Then, you start getting more ideas and writing them down and slowly realizing this is going to be the greatest book of all time.


Then you start writing the first draft.


And everything’s fine for the first three chapters are so, and then you realize this is ms is so needy.

be cool

And it’s not what you thought it was.


And you get finished and you’re just like . . .


But whatever. You said you were in this for the long haul. Clearly it’s time to whip that ms into what you originally dreamed. You’re pretty brutal.


You’re not sorry.


But then you start letting beta-readers read it and OMG! they love it. The fuzzy feelings are starting to return.


Also you’re getting ideas on how to make it EVEN BETTER and again it’s the greatest thing in the world.


And yeah. That ebbs too. But even though the rose-colored glasses are off, you accept your ms for who they are.


You renew your vows to each other to see it through to the end.


But then, surprise, brand new plot-hole that is going to need a truckload of rewriting.


And you never really get to a point where you’re finished, but you eventually arrive at a place where you know where you stand, where all you can think is:





Because, in the end, we all feel a little like Walt Disney when he said in Saving Mr. Banks, “That mouse, he’s family.” My stories, anyway, feel like family. And I guess that’s why they alternately drive me crazy and make me so happy in the same week.

2 thoughts on “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Manuscript

  1. Oh my gosh, YES! I had the weird experience the other day of rereading my own manuscript for the first time since it was acquired, and I wanted to throw up all over it. I kept thinking, “Really!? Somebody LIKED this crap?!” So you are definitely not alone. I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m never going to be able to revisit anything I write.

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