Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sometimes, Trust

by Elizabeth

I spent the best hour of the morning at Pamela's house the other day, listening carefully to her comments on my manuscript and gratefully accepting the printed copy made heavier with her handwritten notes. I drove home, stopping by the car repair shop long enough to lament that the car would need further repairs, and got a nice laugh that it had that in common with the manuscript.

The good news is, neither one needs to be scrapped.

My old car
Almost exactly a year ago, I bought a new (to me) car, not because mine was gasping its last or had need of a repair greater than the value of the car, but because my security in its ability was less than one-hundred-percent. That might sound spoiled and entitled if you didn't know the car was twelve years old and had nearly a hundred and ninety thousand miles on the odometer. To today's sensibilities, it was almost a beater. To me, it was still my new car, but one that I didn't necessarily want to drive halfway across the country without another adult along. After much searching, test-driving, number-crunching, and soul-searching, I decided on the kind of car I'd buy, and bought it.

A little more than a year ago, I pulled out an old manuscript, read it through, and started a fresh work featuring the same main character a few years down the road. The first manuscript had attended the query ball, been asked to dance several times, and was nearly proposed to, but in the end she went home without a partner and went to sleep under the bed.  But the main character? Periodically during this long sleep Joan would ask about her, and ever-so-lightly suggest that maybe there was more to her story that deserved to be told. So I woke her up, told her new story, and Pamela read through it and shared her critique.

Home from Pamela's and the car repair fizzle, I warmed up some lunch, unclipped the pages, and set to work with eyes and fork. Some compliments and smiley faces, and a lot of questions and notes. Good ones, notes that made me nod my head with their sense and rightness, and roll my eyes at things I'd missed, commas and logic and info oh my! I was already familiar with these nods, I should mention, because many of them were identical to my the nods when I got Joan's and Susan's notes a week or so earlier.

Just to be clear: I'm not suggesting that writers should dig through their unpublished work to avoid finding something new. I am acknowledging that sometimes we might find something that didn't quite work, but maybe part of it did, and the new version might well be a version that can and should fly. It's a tough call, and there might be a lot of time spent to no greater good than further experience on the road to publication. But it might also be that what is familiar is right and taking another chance on it is time well spent.

My new car--look familiar?
Here's the deal: A few weeks ago I promised this blog and myself that this time, I'd listen. I'm listening. I'm taking notes on the notes, I'm getting ready to change things big and small. I'm adjusting characters, deleting scenes, clarifying like mad, and in general improving what I had entrusted to my beta readers. And I do trust them, which is the reason I sent them the manuscript. Which is the reason I am here on this blog, today and always: I trust these women, trust them with my manuscript, which means telling me the truth even if they are afraid it will hurt me or force me to do more work than I might have thought I had ahead. Trust them when they say maybe some character I've drawn was the right character in the wrong story at the wrong time.

That new car? I trust it too, just as I still trust the one that needs a little work it will get and then be trusted with my son. Proof? New manuscript, characters I could count on. New car, but not so different after all.


  1. It's a great process...It makes more sense to me to go back and rework something than to always start new projects (the trap I tend to fall into).

  2. I should be free to beta read, too, once school is out. I know you said you had an order you are going in, so I can look at it whenever you are ready.

  3. I'm eager to see what adjustments you make to your story, Elizabeth, and as your critique partner, I'm grateful you accept critique so graciously. Again, my opinion is only one, so I appreciate your trusting me in the process.


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