Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Setting Free the Teenage Manuscript

By Susan       

My daughter, the morning of her 13th birthday
A few months ago my older daughter turned thirteen. “Turning” is the perfect word for her transformation from child to young lady. She seemed to spin and twirl into another creature, one suddenly several inches taller than I with Rapunzel-like blond hair who sings the Les Miserables soundtrack without ceasing, in near-perfect high soprano. She is my baby, my first born, a girl who is now nothing like what I could have ever envisioned because she is so much more than I could have ever foreseen.

I’d been married for four years when she was born, yet who could have prepared me? How could we have known? There is no knowing the love you will have for your child, this part of you who is nothing like you, who is full of self and will and startling intellect. I could not comprehend the love my mother had for me until I held my own daughter to my breast. I didn’t understand the heartbreak I caused my parents as a teenager until I see my own daughter sprouting wings before I am ready for her to fly.

I have a manuscript that is much like my daughter, in so many ways. She’s been with me for a long time, starting as a seed of an idea in 2006 who sat dormant for years, until I allowed her the soil and sunlight she needed to thrive around 2009.  In late 2011, I sent her out into the world so she could find and retrieve the agent of our dreams. She did not disappoint me. Yet now—after a tumultuous year of edits, she is turning, too, just the way my daughter spun into a room when she became a teenager. And like my daughter, I only love her more for the transformation. 

My three-generational saga has become the song of 1950—as I’ve cut two thirds of the story completely out. (Maybe, just maybe, I can write about those characters later. But for now, my 1950 crew had too much to say by themselves.) My 1950 gang never ceases to startle me with their will and collective intellect. I thought I knew them before, yet now, they are becoming so much more. I wonder if other writers love their characters the way I love mine, dreaming of them, protecting them, and then setting them free. 

Much like my daughter, my manuscript is about to sprout wings and fly away from me. Not today, but soon. And part of me is torn. I've even called myself stuck for the past week--unable to move forward in allowing her to be what she is becoming. Is she good enough? Can I finish her properly? And even worse, am I a good enough writer to do this story justice? The 1950 draft will be completed in a matter of weeks, and then, after a few rounds of clean up, it will be time for submission. From there? She will either sell, or she won’t—that’s not in my control. The only thing I control are the words I put to the page. My only hope is that, just like a mother, I’ve been able to properly parent this story out the door. And just like my daughter, perhaps one day I’ll be able to look on proudly as this manuscript becomes a book, and maneuvers herself through the world without me. 

Just like parenting, it’s a risk. You do your best. You show up every day. Writing is a priority, a joy, a pain, and a beautiful journey, isn’t it? And then we set the words free, for others to enjoy them too. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


  1. Chris Howard23 January, 2013

    Wow, just 1950 now huh? Sounds like major changes since my read through. Can't wait to read it all again. Glad to hear it's coming together. I know it was a lot of work. Good job.

  2. Hey, Chris! I started the "rewrite" in late October, and it's really all I've done for the past 3 months (well, besides some good travel...) I really hope to be done within the next 6 weeks if I can stay on track. Fingers crossed!

  3. Wow. Love this post. I think that, just like with our kids (I have 3 daughters, ages 12, 13 and almost 15 so I completely know where you're coming from) time is what makes the difference. As we look at how far they've come (kids, or our writing), we are closely connected. We see the little changes, the way they've morphed one way or the other, we can remember what used to be and where it used to be, specifically. But just like leaving a piece of writing and coming back to it three or four months later, when the same amount of months go by and THEN we look at our girls, the changes aren't so obvious/remembered. That's part of growth, and adjusting to change. And most of the time, after that scenario, we see things differently, appreciate them more, and have a better understanding of where to go from there. :)


    1. Jessica, thanks so much for your words. The girls grow fast (I have two, not just this one,) and manuscripts evolve and blossom as much as our children do. I'm so blessed to be granted the gift of both raising girls and the desire to write. HUGE blessings in my life that grant me tremendous joy! I know yours must be the same :-)


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