Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Old Manuscript

Have you ever taken on a project or a job or a task that you knew from the get-go was going to be way too much work and take way too much time?

No, I’m not talking about being a conference coordinator, although that definitely falls into the category.

A few months back, my friend Nancy Martin proposed a summer project for six local writers. A critique boot camp. Four measly weeks, mid July to early August, during which we each pledged to submit 25 to 50 pages each week and give thorough, written critiques of the other five members’ submissions. In theory, that’s potentially 250 pages to read and comment on, in addition to our own writing.

I jumped on it very much the same way I jumped on the conference coordinator gig four years ago. These things always sound so far in the future that I’m certain I’ll have all sorts of time by then.

It’s a form of insanity. I’m convinced of it.

Also, in my defense, at the time we were planning this, I was going to run a completed manuscript through it…one that I had ready to start submitting.

Then, one week before our first submission deadline, I received one of my older manuscripts back from an agent I’ve been working with. It came with two pages of editorial notes and lots of comments in the margins. In other words: a lot of revision work to do.

I considered taking the easy way out. Stick to Plan A and use the polished manuscript for the boot camp. But I didn’t want to put off revising the one that had sparked an agent’s interest, especially since she’s put an awful lot of time, thought and effort into it. Plus, I’d be a fool to skip the chance to receive feedback on it from these five other writers, all of whom I respect immensely. It would be like tackling a complete home renovation alone when the THIS OLD HOUSE team was ready and willing to assist.

So I’ve been in panic-stricken revision mode for the last several weeks. I’ve turned down lunch invitations, put off doctor’s appointments… Heck, I even passed up a lucrative paying job (not a writing one) in order to focus on rewriting and revising This Old Manuscript.

We had our first meeting this past Sunday. The feedback was invaluable, as I knew it would be. But it also showed me that I need to revise my revisions. Again. How many times have I rewritten Chapter Two over the years? I’ve lost count.

Our next submission deadline is TOMORROW. Will I have at least 25 pages?

I keep thinking of Jonathan Maberry, who completed a manuscript DURING the Pennwriters Conference this year. In the middle of the bar. Between workshops and keynote speeches. All to meet his deadline the day after the conference ended.

So, YES. Between writing blogs, teaching yoga, and giving a mini-workshop for a Pennwriters meeting. I will have at least 25 pages by tomorrow.

Feel free to demand to know my progress as the day wears on. But don’t be surprised if I disappear for great stretches of time. 


Joyce said...

Exactly why I didn't sign up for the boot camp. Every weekend is booked from now until October, and the weekdays are mostly full, too. There was no way I could handle critiquing that many pages each week.

Annette said...

I figure this is good practice for when I do get a publisher and have to meet those deadlines in the contract.

Ramona said...

a) Don't think about Jonathon Maberry, because after seeing him at the bar at Pennwriters, diligently working away, I came to the conclusion that he is not human. He is some form of superhuman, and it's not fair to compare yourself to other species.

b) Here's the thing about people like Jonathon and you and other people who do 6 million things at a time. You're dependable. You always deliver. You might drive yourself crazy in the process, but you take on these projects not because you're insane, but because you know you need it.

I predict you will make every deadline, do a good job critiquing, collapse in exhaustion at the end, and look back on it as a great learning experience.

PatRemick said...

Keep reporting your progress so we can all be inspired!!

Annette said...

Ramona, I'm in no way comparing myself to Jonathan. Lightning would strike me dead were I to do so. I'm just using his inspiration. I forget how many words he had to get done by Monday, but it was way more than 25 pages of revisions.

And I'm still questioning my sanity. But I do think I'm getting better at saying "no" to some of the non-writing demands on my time.

Annette said...

Pat, I'm starting today with 15 pages ready to submit. I'll let you know how I progress as the day goes on.

Annette said...

Page count update: I'm on a roll! Ten pages revised this morning. Now I have to take a break to go teach a yoga class. Will be back later.

Gina said...

Annette -
That's my least-favorite part of writing - when the words are flowing and you have to stop and go away to do something else!

I have to mention that my magic verification word is highly inappropriate for today's weather: goinsno

Patg said...

All I have to say, is good luck. I'm tired just thinking about your progress.

Cozy in Texas said...

Oh my. I have trouble reading 15 pages each week at our writer's critique group. We usually get through all the reads in 3 hours though.

Carol Silvis said...

Good luck, Annette. I know you can do it!

Annette said...

Ann, this type of critiquing is like speed dating. We do our reading at home and write up a page (or 3) of comments. Then when we meet, we're timed. Everyone member gets a little over 20 minutes dedicated to their pages and there's a lot of brainstorming involved. It takes 3 hours, but we get through all six members' stuff.

By the way, I'm back, and later than I anticipated. Phone calls from long lost friends are great, but then you gab for an hour and pretty soon, you're way behind on your work.

Annette said...

Word count update: (drum roll, please)

Seventeen pages today! Combined with the 15 pages I already had, this makes a total of 32. More than the minimum. Less than the maximum. I might manage a couple more tomorrow around family commitments. But my eyes are glazing over, so I think it's time to call it a day.

Besides, now I have to go play Avon lady. No rest for the wicked.

Donnell said...

Annette, all I can say is you're the consummate professional. That group should watch you closely so they can say, I knew her when. Please, keep us updated on your progress. ;)

Joyce said...

What Donnell said.

Annette said...

Donnell and Joyce, you both make me blush. And might I mention, Donnell has a book coming out SOON. And it won't be long for Joyce, either. Trust me on this.