Hey, y’all! I have a quick update to today’s post since I’ve received the go-ahead to spill the beans.
I’ll have a four-book series published with Carina Press starting in 2013. The first, Personal Assets, is the manuscript I mention in my post. My fabulous editor, Deb Nemeth, is helping me slap it into shape, so readers can enjoy it in August, 2013.
I have absolutely fallen in love with Allie and Cameron and the whole Shelbyville, Texas crew again. I can’t wait to share them with you!
How long has it been since you’ve peeked at your first completed manuscript under your bed or on your hard drive?
Stop groaning. I know it’s like looking at that eighth grade school picture taken right after you were given a terrible perm (oh, that was me). But there is value in scrutinizing your early work.
Many of us abandoned our first story attempt. Mine was wiped off the face of the earth by a hard drive fail. At the time, I was upset. Later, I considered it a divine favor.
This summer, however, I printed out and read my first completed manuscript, hoping to salvage it and make it publishable. I learned a ton in the process, and not all of it was about story structure or character development or showing, not telling.
A lot of it was about self-compassion.
It forced me to acknowledge again that I’d done something five years ago that most people only make noises about. I had written a 90,000+ word book. After writing multiple manuscripts, we tend to forget the sheer magic of that accomplishment.
It reminded me I was fortunate to find my writing voice early on. Although my writing’s less stilted now, I could still see the glimmer of what makes my writing special in that first story. What a gift!
Although I thought I’d advanced my writing and storytelling skills in the past five years, re-reading this manuscript reinforced my belief. I received harsh feedback on my third and fourth manuscripts, which put me in a funk at the time. What I realize now is the more your writing progresses, the more readers expect from you and your story. At the time, I thought it meant I was backsliding instead of progressing.
Well, re-reading that first manuscript quickly knocked that notion out of my noggin.
Now, a caution. If you’ve only written one or two books, this technique may not work for you. You need significant time and space away from that book before you can see it as anything but your firstborn.
Thankfully, I marked up the manuscript with a purple pen. If I’d done it in red, that three inches of printer paper would’ve looked like someone made a sacrifice on it. Eventually, I began simply placing brackets around dialogue and bits of narrative I didn’t like. A good portion of the manuscript now has brackets around it .
My margin comments included:
I hate this whole scene.
Please let this book get better.
And the ever famous: What the hell was I thinking?
At the same time, some comments were more insightful:
Need more developed character thought.
She needs to probe about this earlier.
Good, but rework.
Should this be in real time?
What does the reader need to know here?
Think about where she is at start of scene and where after.
So was it uber-depressing to see all that ink on every page but two? Well, I celebrated those couple of pages that could stand as is. That’s for sure.
But honestly, I felt buoyed at the end of the process. Why? Because I knew I could make the story and the characterization better if I was willing to take the time to truly dig back into the book. I knew enough to know I could improve it. That felt amazing.
I also spent time reading a few rough scenes from my current draft (approximately my sixth). Wow! Although I considered these words “rough,” they were better than what I’d considered “finished” with the first manuscript. Again, depressing? Not at all. It made me realize all the hours and sweat I’ve put in to learning how to craft a story and scene, to develop a character and plot was absolutely worth the effort.
Yes, I still have plenty to learn, but I’ve come a long way, baby! And I bet you have, too.
Have you re-read your first manuscript recently? If so, what did you think about it and how did it make you feel about your current writing projects? If not, what’s holding you back?
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ love stories full of hot heroes, saucy heroines and spicy romance. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. She’s currently at work on the third book in her Shelbyville, Texas, series. Give her a shout at Kelsey@KelseyBrowning.com or drop by www.KelseyBrowning.com.
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