I’m working on several manuscripts at the moment, though the one that has been getting the most attention is one I can’t really tell anyone much about, just yet. It’s day will come, I promise you, and hopefully you all will enjoy it, but I have an evil plan in mind and don’t want to spoil it. That, and I treat this manuscript like a premature baby; keep it in the incubator, don’t touch it unless I’m wearing gloves, and don’t let anyone else breathe on it. There’s reasons for that, that will probably become apparent once it’s lungs, so to speak, are fully formed and I let someone else hold it for the first time, but until that moment comes, it will continue gestating.
But that manuscript taught me something, that might be helpful to others, so I think I’ll pass it along. Welcoming opinions on the idea, certainly – including ones that say “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Kaine? That’s a terrible idea!” – so here goes.
That “add note” option. It’s there, tantalizingly buried under a few menu options. I’m mostly aware of it due to the edits I’ve had done; it seems a favored tactic to use it to flag things that need help (and alongside the “track changes” option, to provide suggestions and show before and after slices). It’s present in Word and Pages, and I’m sure there’s something similar in most word processing packages. Seems pretty important and integral to the process, though I had never given it much thought nor seen it used very often except when my editor would return my manuscript file with hundreds of yellow highlights dashed throughout.
The other day, I was struggling with a small part, that is pretty important overall but that doesn’t have a payoff until much later. I just couldn’t decide how I wanted it phrased, or what exactly I wanted to convey there (so as to have the dangling hook without making it too apparent). I knew what was to come after, but for literal weeks I wouldn’t write it because I had to finish this damn paragraph first! Or so my nature insisted.
Then while idly tapping the settings buttons – because that is something I do when I’m stuck and I don’t feel like opening Netflix – I noticed the “add note” button. “Hmmmm,” said my internal self. “You know. If you tap that, it’ll mark this paragraph bright yellow and yell at you when you scroll through in the future. Make it pretty obvious that you feel this needs to be addressed. And then you could go on with what you already know needs to be written without forgetting you need to fix this.” Yes, that was my main concern; I wanted to hurry along with the plot, and at least part of me was willing to skip over this moment, but was concerned that I’d forget I’d done so and then send it to someone with the glaring plot hole quite evident to a new eye while I myself glossed it over.
But now that paragraph is bright yellow and stops my cursor, so I know it needs adjusting. And I’ve thrown 10k more words at it. And having done it once and thus gotten over the newness and potential ooginess of it, I’ve gone through the first 25k-ish words, and dropped notes on phrases that seemed clunky, plot elements that were either giving off too much or too little, character interactions that seemed “off” or other “needs fixing” things, all without derailing where I’m actually going. I’ve dropped another handful as I go, when the “perfect” set of words just isn’t there.
Sure, I may be making extra work for myself when it comes to the rewriting and editing phases… But at least I’m saving myself the work of hunting down the offenders, as I have conveniently left a breadcrumb trail to their front door.
So, if you’re stuck, or if something just isn’t coming out right, or while skimming to see where you were when you last left off (or to double check a name, timeframe or character detail) before you pick up the metaphorical pen once more and you find something glaringly ugly or wrong, give it a try. Drop a note on that little bugger and come back for it later. See if it helps you. In my own head, having a finished manuscript that needs fixing is a hell of a lot better than one sitting in the dead letter drawer, stalled because of some trivial thing. Maybe you’ll think the same.
What about the other writers out there? Does this or something similar help? Is it crazy and a waste of time? Have any other suggestions for averting a stall or recovering from a manuscript breakdown? Share them down below!
Want to help a writer in a tight get back to happiness, sunshine, rainbows, and 2k words per day (with or without Post-Its and yellow highlighters?) Then please check out my GoFundMe campaign; even if you don’t feel like contributing – which I totally understand – maybe you can drop a comment, or give it a share? Everything helps, and is greatly appreciated. Thanks!