Building a Manuscript

I read the following tweets earlier today:

  • “Time to rip apart what used to be chapter 13. Where to begin?”
  • “Crap! Just had an idea that might require rewriting the last 4 chapters!”
  • “I just can’t get this beginning right. Need to move on!”

It makes me giggle when I hear non-writers question why authors make writing sound like such an ordeal. They seem to believe we get an idea, grab a pen and rush to transcribe the inspired words as they flow through us. Sometimes it happens that way, but those gems are brief and infrequent.

Building a story so the characters and setting are real to readers, finding the word choices that transport them into the story and keep them enthralled through to the end, whatever the genre, that’s work… sometimes painstaking drudgery.

One thing I’ve discovered during my writing journey is there is no one ideal way to write, and no single solution to problems. When the multitude of craft books begins to overwhelm with conflicting ‘how to’ advice it’s important to remember that. What writers have in common, however, is the process. Novel writing is a construction project. There’s dreaming and exploring designs, research and planning. Eventually there is the hard work of building upon the foundation to create a solid structure. After the basics are in place, there’s still the interior decorating… the internal fine tuning of editing and revising, sometimes total rewriting.

When readers see only a seamless, well-written story, it doesn’t mean the task of creating that story was easy, only that the author has done his or her job well.

How do you explain to non-writers what your writing process is like? Or do you try to explain at all?

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6 thoughts on “Building a Manuscript

  1. Laura Best says:

    I tend not to explain to non-writers. I’m not sure they’re that interested. That finished seamless story is really all they’re interested in. I don’t mind. I’m so happy now to have discovered a community of bloggers who are writers as well as writers I can get together on a fairly regular basis to talk about our craft. I sometimes think we writers have a one track mind…lol! But hey, it’s who we are, right?

  2. Katt says:

    I don’t try to explain at all. Most of them think, you write a book….it becomes a movie…end of story! :D

  3. joylene says:

    Ha, you’re right. My neighbour asked how my writing was going and I spent the next 10 minutes complaining. Ha. I hope she could tell by the sparkling in my eyes that I’m never more fulfilled than when I’m writing. Great post, Carol. I suppose it’s why when I’m explaining these dire problems with some non-writers, their eyes haze over, eh?

  4. Fiona says:

    I actually tend not to explain at all. One of the things I love about the blogosphere is that there is a large collection of writers out there who really understand the difficulties and pains as well as the joy that comes with writing. Where I am there aren’t many writers, so I’m glad I can connect with other writers through blogging! Also, I love the idea of writing as a construction project – another very apt metaphor, Carol.

  5. Judith Robl says:

    Very apt metaphor, indeed! I’m another that doesn’t explain. No one in my family has any idea about writing and the work that goes into it. Nor does anyone else I know, with the minor exception of about ten people who don’t live in town and are writers, too.

  6. torimcrae says:

    I haven’t been asked but the best analogy I can think of is gardening. You don’t just stick a seed in the ground and wind up with beets and carrots and green beans and writiing doesn’t work that way either. For a good crop you begin with preparing the soil and designing the garden (= prewriting), choosing which types of plants should be put where. (e.g. you can’t plant tomatoes where you’ve previously planted tomatoes or you risk disease in your plants). When you sow your seeds you plant to the proper depth and add fertilizer. In writing this is where you plant your characters, setting, plot & fertilize it with proper words to convey your story.

    Then, in gardening you must water and weed and nurture those tiny plants, sometimes thinning to increase the quality of the crop. This is the revising stage in writing. You thin out excess words, weed oiut bad grammar, spelling and punctuation, and water with active verbs and great dialogue. This stage takes the most time and the most work, whether you’re gardening or writing.

    When all is done as well as possible the gardener harvests a crop and the writer gets a book published.

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