Monday, April 27, 2009

It All Comes back to High School

Last week, I posted about how similar your manuscript is to being in love.

Well, I'm having a fight with my manuscript right now, so instead of love, I'm arguing that your manuscript is really like someone you knew from high school. Like Mike Gross, that creepy kid who sat behind me in Geometry and picked his nose. Yeah, manuscript, you're like that.

Just kidding manuscript. I love you. You're not mad at me are you? Please be my friend again, I hate it when we fight.

...So, without further ado, here's your manuscript in high school!

  • The popular jock: You're the nerdy girl. He's the god of high school. What wouldn't you give to get to know him better? This is your manuscript before you get to know him, when you worship him from afar and he's just this perfect ideal in the back of your mind.
  • The uber-smart kid: You can't compete with this one. He is SO SMART. And even if he's a little nerdy, you know the only reason you don't sit with him at lunch is because you're afraid you'll look like an idiot in front of him. This is your manuscript when you start. You've got this great idea: can you translate it onto the paper? Are you a good enough writer for this idea?
  • The bff you've known forever: You know her backwards and forwards. You share ever secret. You'll be friends forever, right? This is the manuscript you're just rewriting...over...and over...and over. Don't be afraid to find/write someone new!
  • That ugly kid who has a crush on you but who you, like, think is way gross: This is the kid who you know likes you...but ugh! It doesn't matter that he's good at heart, that all he needs is a comb and some zit can't stand him and wish he'd just leave you alone! This is your manuscript when you have writer's block. You know there's ways to fix him, you know he's got a good heart and he's really not that bad...but you can't stand him right now. Give it a little bit. We've all seen the classic teen movies: it's the ugly boys who get the girl in the end!
  • The stoner: He sits in the back of the classroom (when he remembers to show up) with red-rimmed eyes. He's not that much more than a lump, although sometimes he has flashes of brilliance. This lazy guy? He's your manuscript when you're not willing to revise. Sure, there's some bright points in there, but overall, it's a lump: you're going to have to clean this guy up for him to compete.
  • The new girl at school: She's a little weird. Definitely different. And no one sits with her at lunch. Will you? She's that new genre/style/tone/POV/voice/whatever you'd like to try out, but are always afraid to. Everything you've written is in first person? Why not give third person a try. You like romance, but not erotica? Try out some YA for size and see how that works for you. Don't be afraid of new things!
  • The drop-out: She's an expert at being a freshman: after all, she's been one for four years. And then one day she drops out. Maybe you'll see her again at McDonald's...This is the manuscript you abandoned. Maybe you shouldn't have--maybe there was potential underneath all that sarcasm--but in the end, you had to make a choice and drop it. This isn't a bad thing (not at all--if it's not working, it's not working). But the important thing is to keep on writing, and try something new...with a manuscript you can see go all the way.
  • The valedictorian: They've got it all. Brains. Brawn. Football star/head cheerleader. And, to top it all off, they're actually nice, too. The top of the class, beloved by all....this is your manuscript after four years of high school (read: after pain-staking hours of critiques), FINALLY ready to graduate (read: finally ready to submit)...and you know this one is going to go far.
  • The teachers: There are some books out there that teach you good things....and some that only teach you how not to be. As you read (and you should be reading, all you writers out there) don't forget about how you can learn both good and bad things about writing from teacher-books...and don't try to be the teacher, try to take what you learn from the teacher and make it new and different!
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