Many writers refer to their books as their children, so why not treat your manuscript like a child?
1. FOOD. A child must be fed and so must a manuscript. Food = words written.
2. PLAY. A child needs to play and so does a manuscript - or more precisely, its writer. Anyone who has read some of my posts about writing, knows I’m a planner, but I also advocate giving yourself the freedom to wander off that carefully-laid path occasionally. Remember, without that crucial question of ‘What if…’ nothing happens.
3. SLEEP. A child needs to sleep. So does your manuscript. Once you finish that first draft, let it sleep in a drawer. Time away is good. Think of it as recharging your batteries before the next round - just like those naps your toddler takes give you precious time to find your sanity.
4. FRIENDS. A child needs friends. So does your manuscript - but we call them beta/first readers and editors.
5. RULES. A child needs to know who’s boss - and it’s not them. Yes, it’s tricky to get a 2 year old (or a 15 year old) to acknowledge that they’re not all-knowing and the Boss of Everything, but your manuscript can be just as troublesome. Discipline is involved. This is where outlining helps. Think of an outline as your manuscript’s playpen (or, as it was known in my household, the Baby Jail).
6. ROUTINE. Children need a routine so they know what’s coming next - or perhaps it was me as a parent who wanted to feel a bit of control in those toddler years - in any case, routine is good. Having a writing routine for your manuscript is also good. Try to write at the same time each day (or night) even if it’s ten minutes. It gives your work the respect it needs because if you don’t respect it enough to give it time, who will?
7. TO BE HEARD. Children must be listened to - its how we know when they’re hungry, bored, in trouble, etc. Also, there’s a reason why ‘Out of the mouthes of babes’ rings true! Manuscripts must be heard as well. On one level, your manuscript will tell you if you’re going wrong; your characters will stop talking to you. Seriously. This happens. On another level, literally listening to your manuscript, i.e. reading it out loud is a wonderful way to uncover mistakes you hadn’t noticed. Wrong rhythms leap out when you read out loud.
8. SMILES. There is nothing like seeing your baby smile (when it’s really a smile, not gas). Every manuscript needs to smile too - humour, people! Every manuscript needs it.
9. LOVE. Of course we know a child needs love, but so does your manuscript! How else could you stick with it? It’s a different kind of love than for a child, of course, but I would argue it comes from a similar place.
10. REWARDS. For the child, this could be a special treat, for the manuscript - publication!
|Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. Thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by host-party.com. Her A Fatal Fairy Tale, Deadly Ever After and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the Internet. Elspeth's newest game, The Great British Bump Off is now available from her UK publisher, Red Herring Games, as is her Once Upon a Murder. Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.|