Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Multitasking Manuscripts

June has been a funky month. Aside from the usual torrent of busy-ness at work and at home, my modicum of a writing life has been tossed about on a crazy train.

In one of those "fish or cut bait" moments, I decided to quit whining about how I don't have any time to get my first novel out the door. But I'm too much of a perfectionist to not give it one last massaging, taking into account the many prescient comments my early readers have offered. If you're a writer, you know what I mean: "I liked it, but I'm not sure I know what value [insert name of character] provides." Or "I can almost taste that room, but I think I'm getting lost there. Too descriptive!"

Masked in compliments, remarks like those are vital to getting a manuscript in shape, because they cut to the heart of the matter: It's not ready yet. However, while I've appreciated the support of my carefully selected early readers, I didn't always hear what they said. As writers, we're trained to put a finished draft aside for several weeks and work on something else before going back to revise. In a sense, I've found that I needed a similar bit of time to let my readers' comments simmer too. Finally, the remarks have sunk in and I'm eager to get this puppy out into the field to run.

So, I've reopened the manuscript, stripped out some of the detail, added more character development to those people who needed it, and even happened upon a couple typos that somehow escaped the typo-spray I'd shot at the manuscript months if not years ago. Damn insects!

But I don't want to lose the momentum on my current work in progress. I've made great progress in a short amount of time, and I intend to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Hence, the challenge: How do you get a manuscript in shape for agents when you're also writing something new?

For me, the biggest challenge is time. (I know, I know. Not only have I joined that club, I serve on the board, which hasn't helped at all.) So trying to manage multiple manuscripts is like keeping two toddlers safe when they're exploring the house in different directions. I know whereof I speak.

What advice do you have for your fellow writers? Do you focus on one manuscript at a time? Do you move back and forth each week or each day? Do you have other suggestions? Feel free to share.


Lisa_Gibson said...

I'm probably not the best person to ask. I was working on two ms at once. I'm finding it a little difficult. My mind tends to play favorites. I've back burnered my YA fantasy (I think it needs a lot of work) in favor of my YA contemporary. That seems to be where my mind is living most of the time. :)

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Lisa. Based on your comment and one from another writer that's not posted here, I'm starting to think I've been a piker, plodding along on only one manuscript at a time usually.

Jemi Fraser said...

I can sometimes do an edit of one while I'm working on the first draft of another, but I prefer to work on one. I'm pressed for time too, and my brain strts leaking if I push it too hard. :)

R.C. Lewis said...

I know the feeling. I've got one ms going out to agents, a second in the mid-to-late editing stages, and a third being drafted ... plus the occasional attempt at a short story.

My solution probably isn't that helpful. I tend to work on whatever I'm most in the mood for at that moment. It works for me, because my mood changes often enough that nothing gets neglected for very long.

Perhaps set up a schedule of when to work on project A and project B, but be flexible if you're feeling more motivated to work on one of them on the "wrong" day.

Matt Sinclair said...

Jemi, I know what you mean. I think my entire nervous system breaks into a cold sweat if I allow too many manuscripts to co-exist.

Matt Sinclair said...

RC, I like your idea. In a sense, that's what I've decided to do. This week is the work in progress, next week I'll get back to revisions on the first ms. And on Sunday, maybe I'll have some time to revisit the synopsis I never quite finished for the first ms. Of course, I'll also need to re-examine my query...