Thursday, August 30, 2012
Guest Author Sangu Mandanna: Give it Time
Today I'd like to welcome Sangu Mandanna to the blog to help us slow down. Like just about every other writer out there, I was in a hurry to get published and rushed my early manuscripts. Which were then rushed right back to be with big fat NOs on them. I would have saved myself a lot of pain had I known what Sangu is going to share with us.
Sangu was four years old when she was chased by an elephant and wrote her first story about it and decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Seventeen years later, she read Frankenstein. It sent her into a writing frenzy that became The Lost Girl, a novel about death and love and the tie that binds the two together.
Sangu now lives in England with her husband and baby son. Find her online at www.sangumandanna.com or on Twitter (@SanguMandanna).
Take it away Sangu...
As writers, we’re often told to give a manuscript time. To finish it, and work on it a little more, and then to simply put it away for a few weeks, or months, and completely ignore it. And when we come back, it’s like magic! We’re no longer jaded, exhausted, sick of looking at same pages over and over. We have a lot of enthusiasm and fresh, unweary eyes. We find little flaws, awkward sentences, poor usage of words—a whole slew of problems that, briefly, make us wonder what the heck we were thinking in the first place.
This is great advice. In fact, sometimes I think this is the best advice you can possibly give a writer. Time and a fresh perspective can work wonders for your manuscript.
If you’re like me, though, this is hard. I’m impatient. I don’t want to put my manuscript away for a few weeks. I want to get moving, get things done. Bringing everything to a standstill feels like I’m moving backward. I’ve even cheated in the past. I’ve put the manuscript away and then, a mere few days later, whipped it out again to do a little tweak here or a little nudge there.
Which doesn’t help me at all.
Here’s the thing: time doesn’t just help you find mistakes and flaws. Time can remind you of just how good the book is. And that’s the most incredible thing of all.
I’m a perfectionist. Even a little obsessive compulsive. When I’m working on a book (and I mean writing-ten-hours-a-day, can’t-think-about-anything-else working on a book), I get a little lost in it. And not in a good way. I stop writing and start correcting. I edit, and I edit, and then I edit some more. And when I’ve been doing it long enough, when I’ve looked at the same pages enough times, even the good stuff starts to look wrong. I start fixing things that don’t need to be fixed. Changing sentences that don’t need to be changed. Making a little tweak here, and another there, which then means I have to change something else later on...
...and on and on it goes. I’m wasting time and squandering my passion because I’m editing for the sake of editing. Sound familiar?
Let’s break it down using some of my actual numbers.
First draft: 2 months
Edits: 3 months
Time away from manuscript: 3 days
More edits: 3 months
Total time: about 8 months
First draft: 3 months (this time the first draft included a lot of tweaking and editing along the way)
Edits: 1 month (because so much was already edited while I wrote the first draft)
Time away from manuscript: 1 month
More edits: 2 weeks
Total time: 5.5 months
Guess which one was published?
(I’m not saying doing this means you will be published, of course! I’m just saying that that time away helped me write a better book in the end.)
And the irony here is that not giving my book its time actually cost me more time in the end.
So, time. With Manuscript A and many others I’ve worked on, I inevitably drowned in my own work. Until I came to a point where, sometimes, I thought ‘this book isn’t working at all, I’ve been trying to fix it for weeks and nothing’s any better. Maybe I should just forget about it and write something else.’
Or worse, ‘I’m tired. I don’t even know why I want to write at all.’
But then there are the times when I did put the book away (like Manuscript B), and I forgot about it for a little while. I got on with my life, wrote other things for fun, charged up my batteries again. And when I came back to the book, yes, of course I found small things I could and should fix. But I also skimmed through pages like it was the first time I was reading them, and I thought, ‘huh. I remember why I loved this so much.’
About The Lost Girl
Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.
But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.
Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.
What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.