Friday, March 8, 2013

The Manuscript Whisperer

Writers prefer not to admit it, but many, if not most have a manuscript of some sort sitting forlorn, but not forgotten, in a desk drawer or computer folder labelled “Finished Manuscript.”

We dedicated a chunk of our lives to write something that we have since tucked away upon completion, with plans to hone it to perfection at a later time. Or, after honing, we had sent the little darling out into the world with hopes of publication, only to have spirits dashed. After enough rejections, back to the desk drawer or folder did the manuscript go. It is at this point, we consider self-publishing.

I recently helped a woman write her memoir. “I think people cross our paths for a purpose, ” she told me, keenly aware, as I was, that we met only by chance. Both our lives have been enriched by the serendipity. 

I feel the same way about Beth McAuley, Toronto editor and owner of The Editing Company, (TEC) who also found her way to me, or was it I to her? Whichever, I am grateful. Beth has my become, nothing short very own Manuscript Whisperer.

With calm voice and steady hand, Beth has led me back to my manuscript, a memoir that has been languishing, forlorn but not forgotten, in my own computer folder under the title “Book, Finished.”

But it turns out that with Beth’s gentle guidance, I have come to see that “Book, Finished,” was anything but.

Writers are often considered a sensitive lot, and I am no exception. It has been difficult for me to come back to a manuscript that was met with rejection after I sent it out to agents several years back. Response was kind, but clear: great writing, good subject, not commercially viable. Good luck.

With each rejection, confidence in my ms plummeted.

It took me two years before I had the courage to venture forth again into the world of publishing. And when I did, Beth crossed my path, as it seems, for a purpose.

I let Beth read my manuscript, and somehow after her reading, she was able to provide just the right amount of encouragement and criticism (constructive, only), to buoy my deeply dulled spirits. Who wants to set themselves up for rejection (again).

But Beth, with her quiet but persuasive ways, was able to coax a modicum of enthusiasm out of me. With the solid direction she was willing to provide, I began to think, “It’s a crap shoot, but I’m going to try one more time for a publisher. I’ll give it my best shot.”  I was clear, though. I wanted to do only so much work, and Beth had to tell me what to do, every step of the way. One does get a little tired of being one’s own  cheerleader after awhile.

That was six months ago. The rewrites and editing are done. We’re now pulling together  submissions for publishers. The book is good, I have a story to tell, and that story should be read.

Besides the requisite hand-holding to get to this submission stage, Beth has created a new structure for my book, undertook laborious editing, and reworked my story to provide greater focus and arc. I did as I was told.

As a true Manuscript Whisperer should, Beth tamed the bad bits, brought out the good ones.

I know not what will happen next, and do not allow myself to look too far ahead.

I do know that I did exactly what I said I would in a moment of great optimism. I went for “it” one more time, and gave it my best shot. Without Beth, I couldn’t have done either.

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