When the manuscript is going to the garbage can, what do you save?
I’ve been lucky enough to have writer friends who will loan me books they think will be helpful to me. It’s amazing how timely these incidents can be. My observations of synchronicity in my own life make me more aware when my instincts tell me to do things–random things–even when I don’t know why. Even if I will never know why.
So, I am going to insert a passage from a book I’ve just read, and I’m not going to tell you who the author is, or what the title is, yet. Just play along, as if it’s your manuscript…
On impulse, I held up her manuscript. “Okay,” I said. “We both know there’s a problem and we don’t know how to fix it. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m going to throw this manuscript into the garbage.”
She leaned forward in her seat, hands gripping the arms of her chair. I dropped the manuscript onto the floor beside me.
“It’s gone. Into the garbage. You’re never going to be able to write it now. You’ll never see the characters again. I want you to think about that.”
I could feel her thinking.
“If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story, just one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?”
Did you come up with anything? Instinctually, did you grab for something in your own WIP? I sure did. Hold on to that thought.
The book I got that from? “Writing Romance” (Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, WA 1997) by Vanessa Grant. It’s written in the workbook style and full of helpful information, and I have found it far more useful than I thought I should. Since it is nearly twenty years old some of the information is outdated because publishing and the internet has changed, but the Romance genre still has a lot of the same expectations. Vanessa Grant has a soothing but insightful way of picking apart what makes a good, satisfying story. She cautions, throughout her book, that anything not working for the entire story must be cut. (My Sci-fi Romance has some issues I can’t afford to ignore.)
But tucked into that genre specific writing book was THAT little gem. The Vanessa Grant Garbage Can Test. Brilliant. There is a formal exercise included in the book, but I found the narrative of the original incident far more helpful. Since my blog is geared for newer writers, like myself, I couldn’t help but pass on that little bit of insight.
WHY are you writing your particular story? You need to know. If you lose what is important to you, how can you hope to make it important to a reader? Anything that doesn’t serve the core of the story will be cut out (and filed away for another story).
Anyway, my own copy of this book will go into the permanent collection of my after-the-rough-draft revision guides. The rest of the books in that helpful collection are in this article, safely tucked next to the rescued manuscripts that took part in the above nerve-wracking photo shoot.
Back to my revisions. Good luck with your own WIP.