Writer Confessions: How Many Partial Manuscripts Are in Your Bottom Drawer?

May 23, 2011

I may be a little schizophrenic as a writer. I have at least four manuscripts started, three that sit in the bottom drawer of my desk. One is a mainstream novel with more than 500 handwritten pages. Partially typed and partially edited, there are layers and layers of rewrites to this manuscript. I wrote it years ago when my boys were small and put it aside as many years ago.

Then there’s the romantic western that my husband loves, the one I started writing as a dare. I was reading a western romance at the time…and living in Wyoming. I put it aside because I didn’t really want to write a western, but I do think the story has potential.

Then there are two contemporary romances: the one I’m currently working on—which I started a few years ago then put aside because life got in the way—and another I started before I got back to this one because inspiration struck and I wanted to get the idea down. I’m hoping it will become my second finished manuscript. The first, of course, will be the one I’m working on now.

I can’t say I didn’t become scattered when I wrote non-fiction. I’d start on one article and before I’d finished my outline I’d have an idea for another article. What kept me from getting out of control was that I had a deadline on the first article. Plus, it was generally only 2,000 words in length, and I had to send a query out on the next idea before I had the assignment.

With my book, there are currently no outside controls on my project. No deadline—although that will change if I ever finish one and sell it. I’m not sending out a query on the next one because I can’t even send a query on this one until it’s finished.

So…I created controls for myself.

The first is that I have to write at least 5,000 words per week. I’d really like to write 10,000, but I’ve decided to start with 5,000 and when I get used to doing that every week, I’ll slowly increase the number of words until I hit at least 10,000. So far, this is working out pretty well. Although I will admit, I’m still at 5,000 words per week (could be time for an increase).

The second control is my husband. I’m accountable to him. (My idea, not his) Although he’d be disappointed if I didn’t meet my goals, he wouldn’t punish me. (Hmmm, maybe I should come up with a punishment!) However, he is so excited to hear what’s happened in my book each day that I hate disappointing him. If I don’t hit my goal one day, I am making up for it the next. Every evening when he gets home from work, I read my manuscript out loud to him. (He doesn’t want to wait for the typed version the next day, and there are so many scribbles, margin notes and arrows on my handwritten manuscript that aside from me, no one could follow it.) It’s become a little ritual I look forward to and it’s actually kind of romantic. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’ll start pouring a couple of glasses of wine for reading time…

The third thing I’ve done for accountability is set up a loose schedule. I say loose, because everyone in my life is used to me being available as needed, and it’s taking time to train them—and me—to understand that I’m actually, really, truly, seriously working. I’ve even implemented hours when I don’t answer the phone (okay, I try not to answer the phone). My schedule starts with writing my blog posts and then checking e-mail, which I’ve limited to 15 minutes. After I’ve done those things, I throw in a load of laundry—I know, but it has to be done—and I type the previous days work. (What? You thought I got my word count by hand counting?) I don’t do any serious editing when I type, however, I do put Post Its with notes on them all over the pages. Then I start another load of laundry, and I sit down and actually write. Usually, by this time it’s about 9 am. Occasionally, on days like today, it may be closer to 10 am. I write until I’m starving, break for lunch, fold some laundry, take a walk and then back to writing.

I’ve been getting about four hours of actual writing in each day—most days—and I haven’t started any new manuscripts lately, although I do have a notebook where I’ll write down ideas that come up. I’m hoping that with time and consistency this will improve from “most days” to five days a week.

Now I know that I’m not the only one with several manuscripts started. So how many of you have more than one manuscript going? What controls do you have in place or do you think might work for you?

Well, I’m already behind schedule, so time to start a load of laundry and hit the keyboard.


2 Responses to “Writer Confessions: How Many Partial Manuscripts Are in Your Bottom Drawer?”

  1. While I don’t have a drawer, I do have a closet floor with three gift boxes stack on top of each other. Each box contains a printed manuscript. These are not “partial,” because they are complete (400-page) stories, but they aren’t “complete” either, because they each need edits and rewrites. To be honest, I don’t know what to do with them (as I’ve blogged about in the past). Some days I think I should pull them out and work on them to submit, but other days I’m done and chalking it up to learning.

    I think for me it’s best to keep moving forward. My current routine is to write the story I’m working on, edit it with the help of my CP and then submit. Only then do I start something new. My CP, the HQ forums, and my internal editor (who needs to find someone else to pester much of the time) keep me accountable for the most part.

    Tari, I love how you read to your husband. Really romantic. I’d be mortified to read to mine. But you two have such a wonderful relationship where your writing is concerned. Enjoy that!


  2. Joanne Robinson Says:

    so familiar…. I found half a hand-written one I started for my daughter when she was 17. Funnily she asked me about it the other day …… 6 years later! And I’ve one half finished, that I am sure would be good … If I could only decide HOW to finish it !

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