Monday, July 18, 2011

Who are you again?

By Pamela

My husband has spent most of June and July's work weeks on the road. Last Thursday he returned from a long week of driving and visiting his employees with his boss in tow. After dinner that night, he simply got up from the table and walked out the door. I watched his back as he retreated down the sidewalk and into the neighborhood. My son asked, "What's wrong with Dad?"

My good friends Elizabeth and Joel.
I knew that look. To a much greater degree our military folks experience it when they return home from long periods of service. On one hand, they're glad to be home. On the other, they're overwhelmed when family issues and responsibilities smack them upside the head. Or when they realize: life goes on without them. And sometimes it goes on just fine. When I asked my husband later, why he just walked out the door without saying anything, he said, "I didn't think anyone would notice I was gone." 

When you put aside a manuscript, it doesn't go on without you too well. It remains there with unresolved issues, awkward sentences and all, just waiting for your expertise. Getting reacquainted with a set-aside manuscript takes some work. And even if you take the time to reread what you've already written, it still may look back at you and say, "I didn't notice you were gone."

Here are a few suggestions for reviving a work in progress:

  • Introduce a new character
  • Implement a new storyline
  • Take a chapter and rewrite it from another character's point of view
  • Change a decision a character made--if he said no to a job offer, make him say yes
  • Add a prologue, preferably from a different time period than the rest of the manuscript
  • If you already have a prologue, consider incorporating that scene into your manuscript, thereby eliminating it as such
  • Change a character's name, personality, motivation, hair color, back-story, etc.
  • Take a major scene and really amp up the conflict
  • Write a sex scene involving your main character--even if it doesn't belong and you'll toss it immediately
  • Take a scene you've written and rewrite it taking place in a different location

Any other suggestions from those of you who have resuscitated a manuscript?


  1. I have a multi-generation mess sitting on my computer staring at me. I thought that letting it lie fallow for 6 months would help me straighten out the gordian knot into which it has tied itself. I opened it up after 6 months and it stuck it's tongue out at me. I sent it to an independent editor and she sent it and my check back to me. I'm going to try some of your suggestions. I'm not hopeful.

  2. Oh, wow, Christina. If an editor sent it and your check back to you, you do have a challenge before you. But that will make the reward of completing it that much sweeter. Keep at it! Bird by bird... :)


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