Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Falling Back in Love With An Unpublished Manuscript

         I have an idea for a book. Actually it’s more than an idea—one of my editors liked it well enough to give me a contract—but I haven’t written it yet. I put it away for a while. I often find it helpful to have this away-time from a manuscript. For one thing it gives me a necessary distance, so I can look at it with some objectivity. I had planned to get back to it in a month or so, but other projects intervened, then I partially tore my Achilles, and now a bunch of months have passed since I worked on it.
         Now I’m ready. I want to start revising it, but first I have to fall back in love with what drew me to the idea in the first place. At first, this can feel awkward as a dinner with an old flame. I realize that I hardly remember her, er, I mean it.  We need time to get reacquainted. In order to produce a good book I know I’ve got to rediscover the magic, the mystery, the allure that originally drew me to this idea.
         I’m sure other writers have various ways of rekindling the romance. For me, it starts with rereading. If it’s a novel, I need to get to know the characters again, their strengths, quirks, secrets and weaknesses. What they want, and what they fear. 
In this case I’ll be working on a poetic picture book. I reread slowly and I reread for pleasure. I want to remember the rhythms of the language. At this stage of the process I try to be generous with myself. No, the manuscript isn’t perfect (alas, it almost never is) but there are definitely a number of good things in it. Now is the time to savor the positives.
As I reread the manuscript I start to get excited. That’s a good sign! I reclaim my original purpose.. I can see what I was trying to do so many months ago. I start getting ideas for embracing my original vision but also for extending it. If I can do that I just might be to create a book that’s better, more fully realized, than what I wrote the first time around.


  1. Can't wait to read it! I want to share this post with kids too, to show them that even published authors (maybe especially published authors!) reread their work. I always tell kids that is the best writing tool I have to teach them.

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