Sister: So, is it done?
Me: It’s done, but it’s not DONE done.
Friend: When are you going to get that book published?
Me: There are a lot of steps to take before that’ll happen, and there are no guarantees.
Random family members: Do you have a publicist yet, an editor, a graphics-intense website?
Me: I’m going to look for an agent first.
Son: You deserve to get your book published. You’ve been working on it for like a world record.
Me: If passion and perseverance count for anything…
Romans take the New Year seriously and will literally throw out the old (clothing, furniture, refrigerators) before midnight. In years past, it was common practice to throw these things out the window. The streets, as you can imagine, were wrecked by morning.
I had a similar out-with-the-old experience this New Year’s Eve, because at 11:20 p.m. I finished my manuscript*. This manuscript, as my critique buddies and family members will attest, has been my constant companion for, er, too long to admit. Sure, I finished it once in a different genre and turned it inside out at least twice after that; and yes, I used the characters and story as a stomping ground for my writerly growth, but those details are almost beside the point. Unbounded has been my wip for what seems an eternity, and now all I have left to do is get it out there.
I feel a little sad about this. A little worried. A little lost. Because what if, after all I’ve done to get to this point, after all of the craft work and the late nights and the steamy deep-think showers, it fails? I’m not so egotistical as to think that’s not possible, even probable in this industry, though I feel equally sure the story’s strong and unboxed and deserving of notice. (I have to have some confidence, right?)
That asterisk beside the sentence “I finished my manuscript,” means I’m still engaged in wip tidying. Hunting down random misspellings, unnecessary wases and weres. They are the debris after my Romanesque New Year’s, my wrecked road. Yes, this nitty behavior might be considered STALLING, but I believe it’s good to do a final check once you’re confident your story is as close to finished as you can make it. If you do nit work before that point, you are to some degree, as my friend Elena would say, polishing a turd. Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?
So here, a list of things to do to polish your DIAMOND:
Check for intensifiers like truly, totally, very, really and completely, and get rid of the ones that aren’t in characters’ mouths–and a part of that character’s fiber. In fact, check for ly words in general to be sure you really (koff) need them.
Swap feeling words like happy, sad, angry for action beats.
Look for words that reign in your scenes, like “seemed” and “tried,” to see if they’re necessary or if your text is more powerful without them.
Read your manuscript aloud to ID those one-a.m.-draft misspellings and any lingering clunkers that Word just won’t catch. Listen for repeated words, too, then swap one of the extras for a synonym.
Take extra time to proof your newest scenes and other story elements you may have added in the 11th hour. Though they may be golden as is, they might also suffer from having had less review. Read them on a few different days, too. Sometimes I think text flows beautifully one day and find it tiresome the next, and the next, and the…
Search your desk for any remaining notes, then clean off the dust and pour yourself a drink. Drink it.
SEND IT OUT.
Oh, Lordy, what will I do with myself now? No, wait, don’t tell me: Out with the old, in with the new. Got it.
Next week: The dreaded synopsis.
Write on, all!