The Conversation

“You were 126 a couple of months ago. Now you’re down to 123. It’s progress, sure, but it’s not enough. The goal is 114, remember?

“You know what? If you’ll work with me here, we can settle on 116. What about it? Is it a deal?”

(No response.)

“What can I do to make this an easy transition for you? Just name it.”

(Uncomfortable silence.)

“Come on! What will it take to get you down to 114K? And, yes, I’m taking back my offer of 116,000 words because you’re being stubborn!”

(The manuscript still refuses to budge.)

“Look, I’m on your side—I’ll always be on your side—but I have to look at this objectively. If I were asked to read a 123K manuscript for teens that I was reading cold, taking a chance on its writer, I’d probably pass.

“You know, the first Harry Potter book was only 77K.

“I’m rounding up.

A Wrinkle in Time was just under 50. Okay, so it’s true Eragon was 157 plus, but I want to err on the safe side, don’t you?

“Doesn’t it matter to you that you’re not published yet? Because it matters to me. I don’t want you to have to live in a box for the rest of your existence. Of course, I could always end your existence. I have that power, you know.”

(The tension is palpable.)

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. It’s just… I’m frustrated. I’ve been focused on you for quite sometime now. How long have we been together? Let me see… This September, it will be three years. Wow.

“It’s been fun, and I know it’s because I still like you–more than I did at the beginning. You bring out things in me I didn’t know were even there. Some of them are kind of embarrassing, but, all in all, I’m glad we’ve spent this time together.

“I’m not breaking up or anything. I mean, there are some other stories I’d really like to catch up with. Some of them were written before I ever started thinking about you. I feel bad that I’ve neglected them.

“Look, you’re still the one. You know that. It’s because so much about you is real, and it makes me feel fulfilled in some strange way; but then we come to these roadblocks. I admit, sometimes I question whether our relationship is healthy. What do you think? Is talking to you like this healthy?”

In trying to get this manuscript to cooperate, the words ‘wits end’ are ringing in my ears.

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Author: Rilla Z

I'm a scribbler. I'm genuine. Sometimes I'm too genuine. My topics of interest are: this world, the worlds inside my head, and the world to come. Oh, and cups of tea. Yes, I write about my cups of tea.

16 thoughts on “The Conversation”

  1. Awesome. Just plain awesome. The manuscript must have some wonderful characters in it because, well, if you can characterize a novel, then it stands to reason that the novel its self is full of great characters. Good luck getting to 114.

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  2. Oh, the painful slashing of precious words. It can be done, and probably must. Have you tried editing in a completely different setting from the one you write in? That helps me separate my writer’s brain from my editor’s mindset.

    Reading the manuscript in a different format works wonders, too. I made a pdf of my current draft and sent it to my Kindle to read. It’s amazing what I catch doing it that way. Even printing a hard copy in a different font and font size makes your eyes and mind look at the work in a new perspective.

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  3. I’m in my final round of edits before I return my manuscript to my editor at the end of this week. At this point, the entire things reads like a bunch of jibberish, I’ve read through it so many times. So I understand your editing pangs. I was actually editing in my sleep last night. Seriously. Now that is scary. 🙂

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  4. Ah, see, now you’ve uncovered my worst fear. I completely empathize, because it’s a bit like lopping off pieces of yourself, isn’t? We work so hard to churn out those words, and tweak them, and make them all perfect, and then someone dictates that there’s “Too many words! You’ll bore your readers! It will cost too much to print this!” It’s probably good for us in the long run, but it’s certainly an exhausting and painful process, sometimes.

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    1. “Lopping off pieces of yourself.” Exactly! And I’m concerned my original passion is being chiseled away with it, that one day I’ll view the manuscript with a shrug and toss it to the flames. 😦 Nooooo!

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      1. I give copies of what I have done to people very close to me nowadays, both in case of a computer crash, and because I know that my own inevitable despair/self-loathing has already resulted in the destruction of too many manuscripts. Work that I wish, now, I had back. It would be nice to look back at what I wrote when I was ten, or fourteen, and see the original versions (or even journals of my life back when). If only I hadn’t purged everything in one of my notorious fits!

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        1. I’ve kept my old journals and essays, etc, and I back up my story and research files. I admit, I read over them with a feeling almost like contempt, despising their flaws, at times. So, really, this is a good idea for me, too–if I can get past the embarrassment of having even someone close to me peruse them. Maybe I could just seal them up and say, “Just keep them for me. Don’t look at them.”

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  5. Oh, Rilla! I worked for a few years with doctors submitting abstracts and manuscripts and such. Abstracts are short synopses of the bigger picture that are meant to be reader friendly, quick reads. It resulted in a lot of “lopping off.” I soooo admire your ability to create characters with various personalities and resulting conflicts! You, dear, are a true writer and you amaze “commentators”, such as myself. You WILL get there! Sometimes, the best thing to do is to walk away for a few minutes (hours/days) and return with fresh eyes, keeping in mind the dictated deadline. You are too talented not to succeed! Who knows? Maybe what is lopped off in book 1 will be resurrected in book 2? 😉

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    1. You’re right: I amaze commentators–no, wait. I was going to say, you’re right about walking away and taking a breather. I needed to hear that. And thanks for your encouraging words and compliments!

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    1. 12? Ouch. And, yeah, I have a ton of story ideas and beginnings stashed away, though only six or so have made it to story sketch level. I try not to feel guilty. And I do sneak in some time with my other stories when I need to take a break. That way I’m still making progress. And, yeah, I’ve been winning lately. It’s down to 121K now!

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