Turning your manuscript on its head and shaking it to see what falls out

If I were to place here the original Virginia Kate document, you would not recognize our girl. The words you read may be nice, and you may even say, “Hey, I like that woman.” But, it would not be Virginia Kate.

The very first paragraph of the original document is thus:

Beginnings and endings, sometimes the line between them is blurred. I am feeling lazy, lying in bed watching the wind blow the gauzy curtains in a languid waltz. I listen to the surf roar out my name, daring me to swim against its waves. The contradictions of my senses make me feel alive. Hoping for the profound hidden in the mundane, I want to set this day apart, just like I’ll do the one after this, and the next, for as long as it lasts.


The surf? Swim against its waves? What? How can there be surf and waves? Where is VK’s holler? And that’s not how VK talks. Who/where is that? Why’s she in bed anyway? And if you read a bit further, you’d see the word: specialness –Oh Dear! Did I really write “specialness” -erk, bleah *blush* *laughing* And if I remember correctly, I think VK is dying in this version. Oh!

While I was writing the first draft of the VK novel, I liked what I was writing—most of the words, that is. VK was more contemporary, which isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t VK. And the entire novel was written from an Adult Point of View, and not, as in Tender Graces (and to some degree in Secret Graces), letting VK’s voice “grow up.” And sure, that was fine, but . . . something nagged at me; something wasn’t right . . . until I let VK began speak to me in her own voice, not the one I manufactured for her.

In hindsight I see how I was writing what I thought I was supposed to write and not what I wanted to write, what I was “called” to write for that character.

Sometimes if we are stuck or if something “just isn’t right” we have to do something drastic and bold—even if that means a whole lotta work to our manuscripts.

Once I found “the real voice of Virginia Kate” the changes and deleting and rewriting came quickly. I was excited, and happy, and I felt my VK was at last “home;” I felt the lightbulb blaze bright in a sudden clarity of light and “This is IT! Yes!”

Don’t be afraid to go in and rework your manuscript, even if it is unrecognizable with what you thought it would/should be. Would my first version have been published? Maybe, but I’m doubtful. Likely, my angst and stops and starts and puzzlement that things just didn’t feel “right” would continue to carry over into the work making it stilted and “just not quite there,” so that probably would have stalled the query process and final outcome.

That moment of AHA! was the moment VK became Real and True. And if I’d have ignored that, or if I’d have thought, “But I can’t re-write all this—it’s so much WORK! I’ve written thousands and thousand of words (I had) Oh dear!,” then my Virginia Kate would not Be.

Listen listen listen to those urging voices. If you are having trouble with your manuscript, don’t be afraid to take your manuscript and turn it on its head and shake it out to maybe, just perhaps, find some other Truth to your character(s) and story and setting and voice and tone. It may very well be your AHA! moment. It may very well be the turning point for you.

Have you ever turned your manuscript/story on its head and shaken it to see what falls out?

(PS – I don’t look for reviews and rarely read them; however, I saw this one from BOOKLOVE -a review of Secret Graces, and it is such a lovely review, insightful, that I thought I’d post the link: SG Review at Booklove )

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