Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Five Stages of Manuscript Withdrawal

Reader, I have something to tell you: I'm mourning the loss of my baby. Yes, my sweet manuscript.

Over the last couple of weeks I've finally come to admit that my book is just about done. It's packing it's bags and gearing up for college. That means it won't get any more help from me until a professor (re: publisher) has something to say about it. I have a couple things to tweak based on some feedback, but it's more the equivalent of pushing my manuscript's hair out of its eyes and reminding it to eat something green once in a while.

I suppose I've run that metaphor into the ground, yes?

Now I'm going through the stages of manuscript withdrawal. I'm sure it's different for everyone.

For me, Stage One was Domesticity. Last week I spent an entire morning vacuuming and dusting my apartment--yes, dusting--for no reason. I suppose cleanliness is a reason, but generally I don't engage in these activities unless company is coming over. I cooked lots of food and stocked up the fridge. I contemplated baking cookies but that idea was shelved because I ran out of eggs. I'll be making them tonight now that I eggs since the other ingredients have been on the counter for days and I will be very annoyed to put them all back and not have a cookie with which to reward myself. (Apparently the Domesticity Stage of manuscript withdrawal has its limits.)

Stage two is Excessive Reading. I think I'm trying to fill up the gaping hole in my soul. Reading also serves the dual purpose of reminding me why I write in the first place (because I love stories) and inspires me to start something new. But not yet. We've got a few more stages to go first.

I already devoured Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, which I loved. Now I'm tearing through Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever This was at my mom's recommendation, by the way. Apparently it's her favorite Paranormal Romance. She literally called me yesterday just to see how much I liked it. Please note: she gave me the books on Sunday.

I'm also rereading Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners. Her stories are very rereadable because they're so odd and prismatic that you can just keep turning them over in your hands, admiring the light and discovering new colors. I was also concurrently reading Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning book Olive Kitteridge. It was really well-written and insightful and I wanted to read it because she's a Bates alum. But that book is officially going on the shelf unfinished. I just cannot keep going. It's TOO true for me. TOO brutally honest and insightful. This is why I prefer fantasy fiction. The contemporary stuff always makes me want to cry, and I spend plenty of time battling that feeling without literary assistance.

Stage Three is Malaise. I've been feeling worthless, useless, without purpose. If I'm not writing this story, then what on earth am I doing on this earth? Dusting the damn living room!? I might as well just disappear for all I matter in the world. (This is just a feeling, Reader. Just as with Dementors, I find that chocolate helps. And pep talks from wise, art school graduate twin sisters. And supportive husbands with sunshiny smiles.)

Stage Four is Avoidance. I suspect next week I'll be making plans with friends, going for long walks, and basically making any other excuse to not be near the computer. And this will not be because I'm afraid to write, it will because I am very busy.

Stage Five is Acceptance. By the end of next week I should be in the throes of a new story.

I hope.

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