Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Picking Over the Carcass of My Manuscript

by Julie Coulter Bellon

You know how after a beautiful misty rain storm, you come outside and breathe in the fresh air, look around at the dew drops clinging to the grass and feel cleansed? Everything seems a little brighter, a little cleaner, and the air really does smell a little sweeter? Then you look down and realize you’ve just stepped on five worms who were out peacefully enjoying the rain as well? And now you have worm guts on your shoe and a big mess on your sidewalk. That’s how I’m feeling about my manuscript today.

I normally love editing. Love it. I love manipulating the words on the page to make a scene better, tighter, or just more descriptive. There’s nothing like a well-edited manuscript. Unfortunately, sometimes the editor in me doesn’t know when to stop editing and pretty soon I look down and my beautiful fresh manuscript is covered in worm guts and I’ve got a big mess on my hands.

You see, I’m at a point with my manuscript where I’ve gotten all the feedback, made changes, and smoothed it over. Logically that should be all there is to it. Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to send it off, someone said to me, "Well, make sure it’s your best work before you turn it in."

What! What does that mean? Why would they say that? Of course I immediately started second guessing myself. Is it my best work? Could I do better? So I went back and edited some more, changing scenes, taking out some peripheral story stuff, moving things around. It got messy. Very, very messy.

So now it’s like looking at the bottom of my worm gut saturated shoe and wishing I would have stopped walking when I had the chance. I am looking at my manuscript and feeling like I’ve killed it. The joy is gone, it’s all worm guts on the sidewalk now, displayed in all its gory glory. No one will want it because I’ve edited it to death. A horrible, grisly demise, that any publishing company would take a glance at and then run away screaming. All that’s left to do is pick over the carcass of it, like a bird with a worm.

Last night I was expressing these feelings to another author friend of mine and she said, "Well, then, it’s time to turn it in. When you can’t bear to look at it a second longer, turn it in." Then she offered to read it and give me her opinion. To which I said, "Okay, just let me change one more thing."


Maybe it’s a sickness. Or maybe editors shouldn’t be writers. Or writers shouldn’t be editors.

I know I should just turn it in. Put it in the little envelope, like a coffin, and send it on its merry way to heaven or you know where, depending on whether it’s accepted or rejected. And the tears could be happy or sad as well, depending on its fate.

Double sigh.

All right, all right, I’ll just hand it in. Sheesh. But maybe I should read it one more time . . .


At 3/22/2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Ah, well-meaning persons who, trying to be helpful, plant those seeds of doubt! They should be shot.

At 3/22/2007 6:40 PM, Blogger KB said...

Funny. For us, at least. Just send the thing and get it over with. :)

At 3/22/2007 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband used to tease me about doing too much revising in an effort to avoid sending my manuscript in. I'd protest that I wasn't stalling--I just couldn't stand letting it go when I could still see ways to make it better! I'll bet it's absolutely impossible for a writer to read his/her work without wanting to change something.

Now . . . go send in your manuscript!!

--Stephanie (who is too lazy to log in under her own blogger ID)

At 3/25/2007 1:09 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

I am very surprised to learn that my hero has the same anxiety over whether it is good enough. I guess this shows that it will never go away.

You did a great job in your class today. I could see your anxiety every time you picked up your carcass--I mean manuscript. I felt sorry for you wearing that sweater. You must've died in that heat.

There I have proved that I do not hate you see Galatians 6:11
and don't forget My blog is at


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