Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to Say Goodbye to your MS

You've hit send. You're done with the book (unless someone - your agent, a publisher, an editor, your mom comes to you with edits/revisions.) How do you move on to your next project? How do you stop obsessively thinking about the people and world you created - spent months or years shaping - to move on to the next project?

Every writer gets to this point, regardless of whether you are published or not. For whatever reason, more tinkering cannot be done on your baby. You need to let her go (SNIFF!)

Here are my tips for saying goodbye to your ms and moving on to your next Work In Progress.

1) Bask in the Glory That is You (I know this is grammatically awkward, but cut me some slack.)
You wrote a book. Regardless of what happens now, nothing and nobody can take that away from you. My excellent writer pal, Jenny Herrera sent me a care package, just because I finished a book. (Obviously, she is awesome and I will have to work hard to reach that level of awesome.) She sent me homemade cookies (choc chip w/ popcorn!!! go harass her for the recipe, it's amazing.) an inspiring writing book, oranges, a funny pin, book plates - just things that let me know she was proud of me. But she wouldn't have been able to do that if I hadn't told people that I'd finished FIND ME. So brag a little. Post your accomplishment on Facebook. Tweet about it. Call your friends. Let them throw some love on you. Then throw some love on yourself, too. Take this moment, before anything else can color your perception of yourself or your book to realize that YES. YOU WROTE A BOOK. That is something most people have never done, and will never do.

2) Take a Break (part 1)
The state of my housekeeping during the last weeks of revising was, shall we say, less than stellar. My hedges were overgrown, I forgot to send snacks in for my pre-schooler's school (the shame burns) and the lady at the Burger King was starting to call me by name. Everything took a backseat to the book. Now I can cook. I can plant my seedlings. I can work on my other (non-writing) projects. I can have clean underpants. The Villasante household is humming along again and I've even completed my taxes (4 days to spare, WOO HOO!) Take a few days to take care of non writing business. This will make you feel less frantic when you jump back into writing.

3) Take a Break (part 2)
You've been in your writing cave, working and re-working your ideas. If you are smart, you've also been reading the whole time -feeding the hopper of your mind with how other writers craft. All good. But now that you're not actively crafting, you need to step up your exposure to culture. Art. Writing. Music. History. News. Your kids art show in the gym. NATURE (especially now that the world is exploding in floral gorgeousness.) Nourish your writing soul with things that are not necessarily writing. I'm not saying don't read. But I am saying PLAY. All these things will feed your future writing.

4) Start Again - And Don't Panic
The first time I said goodbye to a book, I took the advice of starting a new project to heart. How do you stand the waiting (which is indeed, Tom Petty, the hardest part)? You start your next project, says everyone, ever. All well and good. But what they don't tell you is that you'll feel like you're two-timing your last ms. You'll feel the pull of the world you left on your new, fledgeling work. It's kind of unfair. You're last manuscript is gorgeous, polished and refined. You're new WIP is messy, kind of short and shallow. OF COURSE if you compare the two, you're going to prefer your last ms. You might not feel the same passion for your new project as you did for the one you just left. This is normal. I remember feeling quite depressed, when I started FIND ME almost a year ago, that it wasn't as good as my last book. I felt like it wasn't taking off, it didn't POP. It took me two solid months of writing FIND ME to feel like I'd found the story's groove. So: Don't give up on the new project too quickly. Don't compare it to the last project. Don't feel badly if you don't fall in love with it right away. Writing love will grow.


  1. Speaking of awesome, here is the recipe for those cookies: (I added pecans to it.) Though beware: Joy the Baker (whose recipe this is) is crazy beautiful/badass/has glorious tattoos, and you'll totally want to be best friends with her. I know I do. Hmmm, she does live in L.A. Would it be creepy to go find her? It would probably be creepy.

    And I love this whole post. Especially number 4. We've talked about this, but it is hard to start another manuscript when your heart is still in your last one. But knowing that other people feel this way makes it better somehow.

  2. my rotten children ate most of my cookies. NOT THE FIRST night - i had cookies for dinner that night. but the next day, just crumbs left, man. what, they think that, because it's a cookie it belongs to them? damn ankle biters....thank you again for the wonderful care package.

    I agree that #4 is the hardest. I remember, back when I painted, that it was the same way. between admiring a finished painting that makes you sigh with satisfaction and staring at a blank canvas, it's easy to want to stray towards the pretty. our jobs is to throw ourselves, mercilessly, repeatedly and with little concern for the state of our hair, against the blank canvas. Sorry, just got a hair cut, so I'm in a hair-do state of mind. :)

  3. having sent my manuscript to a few agents with no signs of interest, I have tried to embark on my next novel but I'm not finding it flowing like the first one, not sure why. oh well.

  4. I keep trying to say goodbye, but after I kiss it goodbye and send it away it returns to me saying it's not ready...


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