Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Power of Distance - Why You Should Break Up With Your Manuscript

It's been almost a year since I last touched (or looked at) my WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS manuscript. And man, did I need the break.

By the time I signed my publishing deal with Month9Books I was so tired of looking at STAIRS that I could barely tell wrong from right and up from down.  So I was relieved when my editor told me my revisions  wouldn't come until winter, because it meant I could take some much needed time away to focus on other projects (read: me time.)

During the one year break from WTSE, I was promoted to a new role at work, started two new stories (well, technically only one, but the second is alive and thriving in my head), and read anything I could get my hands on. (Forty-two books to be exact, but who's counting? ;-) )

Meanwhile, WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS slept quietly in cyberspace.

Until one day it woke up.

I was reading in bed, fuming over my dissatisfaction with the final installment of a well known YA trilogy (I bet some of you can guess which one!) when my MC's voice popped into my head from out of no where. Suddenly I had an idea for a scene that addressed a piece of recurring feedback I'd received from Beta readers.  I had addressed it in my pre-submission rewrites, but in that moment I realized there was an even better solution.  In fact it was so glaringly obvious that I couldn't believe I'd never thought of it before.

A few days later I had another burst of inspiration.  Then another.  Until my notebook was filled with ideas for tweaks that would make STAIRS better. Things that, looking back, should have been obvious. But because I'd been so close to my manuscript I couldn't see them.

This morning I received my revisions from my editor (squeeee!) and sure enough, one of the suggestions is to revisit the exact item I had my epiphany about.  I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I received my revisions six months earlier. Would I have been ready to fully address the areas that needed improvement?

This whole experience has made me appreciate the advice I've heard from just about every veteran writer: The best thing your can do for your manuscript is to break up with it.  

I thought I had taken a break when I took a three month hiatus after my second round of rewrites.  But it wasn't really a break - even though I wasn't writing I still thought about it and mentally plotted the next round of tweaks. What I should have done was lock that sucker up in a drawer until it collected a nice layer of dust so I could come back to it with fresh eyes.  

So add me to the long list of veteran writers: break up with your manuscript!  I promise, your story will be better for it.

Happy writing!


  1. Is it just me or is there anyone else out there that has one or two manuscripts that you don't ever want to get back together with?

  2. haha, definitely. I have a story from back when I first started attempting novel writing that I'm so glad I broke up with. We were soooo not each other's types. :-)

  3. A break definitely helps me. I get new ideas to help develop the characters when I wait. It's so hard to wait on stories though, you just want to get them out. But for me waiting is something I need to do. Gives that fresh perspective.