Beach Towels and Manuscript Revision

We swim a lot at our house.  Nonstop actually, which means our beach towels take a beating.  While we have 23 towels, we try really hard to hang used ones up to dry so they can be used again.  And again.  And again.

If we didn’t, we could feasibly use all 23 towels every day between our kids and their friends.  That’s at least four loads of laundry.

And there’s nothing I hate more in this world than washing laundry.  But even if I weren’t sounding so lazy, I could justify not washing every towel after every use because it will wear them out quicker.  I could plead “green”–that I’m simply trying to stretch the life of my towels as long as possible.  Also, DH’s dollars.

After DD’s big, birthday weekend, all 23 towels had been wrapped around various bodies, numerous times.  Between uses, we hung them up.  Much like I set aside my manuscripts.

Over the past year of hanging out on AQ and other writing forums, I’ve noticed the tendency to submit a manuscript immediately after completion.  We finish them, read through them–checking for typos and other grammarly issues–once, maybe twice.  Then we send them off.

I’ve learned a lot about the process in general and writing in particular in the past year.  My best advice to writers is this:

Let your Manuscript Dry

Hang it up between uses.  Don’t run it through the washer after one use and declare it ready to go. 

Your manuscript will wear out.  Your list of agents will fade.  Your patience will become thread-bare, and you will end up on the Wanna-Be Writers’ Memorial Wall of UnFame.

Writing is not a race.  It’s a process.

Manuscripts must read and reread.  They must be checked for plot and character development, not just typos.  And in between edits, they need time to dry.

Only after our manuscripts are the best they can be, should we wash them and dry them in the dryer so they are fresh and clean and ready to share with a new set of guests.

This is when we should submit.  To do so earlier, is unfair to us and the stories we want to tell.

How long does it take before your manuscript goes from complete to submission?  How many edits do you put it through before you declare it polished and ready to go?

 

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22 responses to “Beach Towels and Manuscript Revision

  1. You should change your blog title from “Words from the Woods” to “Wise Words from the Woods.”

    That is a great analogy. I wonder how many first manuscripts end up scrapped because the authors don’t figure these things out before it’s too late?

  2. This is a timely question for me.

    I thought complete and polished was last December when I sent the ms to Christine Witthohn. In the ensuing THREE MONTHS, I didn’t stop thinking about it, though, because there were some elements of the story line I still wasn’t satisfied with. By the time she’d read it and offered me representation, I felt I knew what those things were, and with her complete agreement, I went about that reshuffling process.

    And it’s still not done until she says it’s done.

    • We are all guitly of this in some way. You were blessed with enough writing skills and a good enough story that you still nabbed a wonderful agent. Not all agents are so hands-on and you should count yourself lucky to find one with the same vision as you.

      Best luck with the reshuffling. I had a bit to do for Agent Awesome prior to the offer. His tidbits were small, yet made a tremendous difference on the overall product. It amazes me how a little detail or two can add to or detract so completely from a finished product.

      Thanks for your perspective on this. It’s always nice to see in real time how these things play out.

  3. I think Peter’s got a good point (again). I think an outside set of eyes (especially a talented & knowledgeable set) is vital to bring the story forward after a bit. We can only bring it so far on our own.

    I’ve had to let my story sit because it was to the point I knew it word for word in some spots. Definitely not good – I couldn’t see any of it because my brain already knew it.

    Crit buddies & of course agents (I can dream) are really helpful to this whole drying out process. 🙂

    • Jemi, you’re right (again). We can only take our writing so far on our own. We do not have the expertise and the experience in the industry to see our flaws. An agent or an editor is trained to pull out our strengths and guide us through our weaknesses. They are not as close to our manuscripts as we are and can really see them as a whole.

      Great advice.

  4. Wonderful advice, Cat. I’m leaning too far the other way at the moment. My two manuscripts are getting so dried out they’re crunchy.

  5. I can get a manuscript to what I think is ready in about six months. Lucky for me, though, I put it through the writing group which takes much longer and makes me wait, as well as think and revise. I think I go through the entire thing probably three more times after the first instance of calling it quits. And then I submit. ^_^

  6. When we finally finish that first draft, we get so excited we want to start revising & editing immediately and when that’s done I want to submit as soon as I can… But I don’t because I know manuscripts need time to cool.
    “Writing is not a race. It’s a process.”
    This is one of the best advice ever Cat! I always tell myself this, try to slow down whenever I catch myself getting overly excited and submit right away 🙂

    • Lua,

      I think the wait is the hardest thing to do. We get so wrapped up in the excitement that we have a hard time seeing that our writing isn’t as great as our excitement level!

  7. I bow down to you o’ Queen of the Analogy. You are the pro at coming up with these analogies. I know I was sick to death of my MG ms and let it sit for a bit and then started querying. Now that I need to re-work it, it’s been back-burnered for quite a while. *sigh* maybe I’ll get back there at some point. 🙂

    • I just have a weird mind. Not sure that is crown worthy, though…

      I’ve been in that same boat of querying too early, only to find out I should have gone through one more beta. Alas, the burner just keeps them warm and ready for us.

  8. What a wonderful post! I think I may be maturing as a writer. When I first started writing, I queried projects long before I should have. My last book probably went out a little prematurely. My next one is going to get a chance to “dry”. I love that term, by the way. I may steal it to use around the house. 🙂

  9. Cat, I agree with Lisa – you are crown-worthy. Your analogy is so true and I know I’m guilty of sending my work out too early.

    Also, your post reminded me that we are running low on beach towels. With umpteen kids, plus their friends, I’ve caught them eyeing my ‘good’ towels. (The only ones that actually match.) 🙂

    Letting both the towels and the ms dry is excellent advice.

    🙂

    • LOL! We have a strict rule about good towels staying in the bathroom. Of course, after showers, they usually end up on the kids’ floors.

      What is it about towels and the floor? Last I checked our carpets don’t sport clothes lines. Contrary to my children’s beliefs. : )

  10. Pingback: …Etiquette « Writing. About writing

  11. Another fantastic analogy. I love all your great advice. And so, I have awarded you a Lovely Blog award. To pick it up please visit my site and pass on the joy! Thanks for being so uplifting and inspiring.

    • Thanks, so much Susie. I shall stop over and pick it up when I return from my trip. Right now I’m stealing precious time on the bus until my battery dies!

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