Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are You Afraid of Your Own Manuscript?

My God! What have you done? You’ve written half a novel and then left it unattended for weeks or months?! What were you thinking? Now it’s broken loose of its chains and is rampaging around the village while you’re off picking daisies, oblivious to the carnage.

Writer-friends, do you have a monster manuscript hiding amongst your computer files? Some Frankenstory that refuses to be tamed? Are you avoiding it because it started back-talking and thinking on its own and then, bah, it became too unruly to deal with so instead you’ve walked away from this half-formed beast? 

If so, you are a very naughty, very irresponsible mad scientist. *finger wagging in your general direction*

Hey, don’t skulk furtively away when I'm publicly shaming you. I’ll show you what I mean. Here are some signs that you are afraid of your own manuscript.

When you find you have a spare 30 minutes to write, you instead decide to:

1) reorganize your sock drawer according to color, thickness, and cotton-poly blend ratios

2) watch YouTube videos of squirrels on water skis because they’re just so funny (FYI: if you’ve typed “LOL” more than once this week on any website, blog or forum, you need to stop screwing around online)

3) whine about how hard writing is

4) succumb to self-doubt and convince yourself that you should give up.

Here’s a writing lesson that everyone needs to learn: YOU ARE THE BOSS. ACT LIKE IT. Your story will only obey your commands. You have special bond, you see. Master and creation. It can be a beautiful thing. Or it can turn monstrous. 
Doesn't this look sort of romantic?

If you’re afraid to get back to work on something, it’s probably because you’re resisting making some hard decisions about where you want to take your story. I know that’s how it is for me. Writing is all about decision-making. Sometimes those decisions are easy or flow naturally, but sometimes they are hard. And tedious. I'm telling you, tedium is a huge part of being a mad scientist. It can't all be about hooking up the jumper cables to the neck bolts and joyfully shouting, "It's alive!" There's a lot of gravedigging and super gross body snatching that has to go into it.

Look at it this way, the longer you resist your beastly creation, the more potent it becomes. And if you wait too long, then you’re gonna need a crack squad of highly-trained henchmen outfitted with a whole lot of prototype weaponry so you can track the thing down before it maims or kills any more innocent bystanders. This is not good. For one thing, you know how hard it is to find good henchmen these days, and for another, with the way R & D timelines are always getting pushed back, there’s no guarantee your contractor is even going deliver your utility belts on time. Then there's the PR nightmare that is explaining away a pile of dismembered corpses. PLUS, don’t even get me started on skyrocketing budgets. Do you have any idea how much night vision goggles cost? Like, $10K a pop. Seriously.

So get back to it. Please. Before more hapless villagers are mysteriously mauled or downtown Tokyo suffers for it. Be not afraid of what you have wrought. They're just words.