The Trials of the Writer: The Manuscript
".... when the editor has finished with it, and you have edited it again,
you fall in love with it all over again."
Here's the good news, in case you didn't know already. More books are being written, more manuscripts are passing over editors' desks and that's because more people are literate than ever before in history.
And here's the bad news. It's harder than ever in history, to get a publisher to take on your work. Writers are a mad lot. But they are inspired, driven and more necessary than ever. More than ever, we need to tell our stories. Not just to get a truly diverse narrative out there, to challenge the suffocating effect of the mass media and populism, but for ourselves. Yes, for ourselves.
Editing my manuscript "Motherlands," is a gruelling, sobering yet loving act of endurance. Anything worthwhile takes effort. With the tactful yet forthright and highly skilled support of my editor, I am cutting extensive tracts from my manuscript. If it doesn't move the story forward, out it goes! (Cheat tip: Save the "I-just-can't-part-with-it" bits for short stories. See my next Blog). If the key theme(s) or the focus has wandered off into the bushes, rewrites of the chapter or certain sections are needed.
You think you have a story to tell, that it's straightforward but as you wander further down that jungle trail, you make all sorts of discoveries about life, your life, about yourself. It can be humbling and sometimes disturbing, a bit like opening up a cellar door.
"There is a strange constant surprise when you're writing because you discover all the things that you don't know, all the things that you're not, how you're connected to all the living and all the dead, all evil and all love, and all these possibilities of the universe exist in all our souls. We all know it but mostly we only know it in moments of extreme ecstasy or grief. The difference for writers is that they have to go to that place daily."
- Richard Flanagan, Listen up.
As an aside, to those of you who have read my earlier short stories, I thank you for your patience and generosity. Being an avid reader, I thought I knew how to write a short story. It is easy to forget how fast readers scan a page, leaping over the self-indulgences of the author. Now I'm fascinated with flash fiction. Crime writer Ian Rankin set himself the challenge of writing to a 200 word limit.
If I knew then, what I know now, I would have been fearful of this odyssey. Perhaps I might not have gone on with it. A good friend, who has been steadfastly reading each chapter of my book as I wrote it, said again and again, "Just keep writing. Worry about editing it afterwards." I followed that guidance, now here I am at the sharp end. I have reworked the manuscript up to page 212 and will probably do more work on it. But something of beauty is emerging.
Now the time has come to prepare for approaching the publishers: the all-important, super-succinct "pitch" and synopsis for "Motherlands." (If you are American, you'll need to find out about the Query Letter).
So as Isabel Allende says,"Write what should not be forgotten." Be the Book People à la Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. We ARE the new counterculture in a time of instant gratification where electronic media is pounding the sense out of us all.
"I think that books have become what the counterculture once was. They have a subversive power and a resonance that perhaps they didn't have twenty years ago. Fiction speaks to something fundamental in us which is under attack from so many other aspects of society. it's one of the last free spaces." - Richard Flanagan.
COPYRIGHT: Magz Morgan 2018