I recently reread a manuscript I hadn’t touched in over two years. Because I wanted to experience the story as a reader, I loaded the manuscript on my kindle and curled up in bed with it. The results were fascinating.
First, as I was reading, I literally couldn’t remember what came next. Sure, I knew the overall arc of the story, but I’d forgotten the details of how the events played out. I even surprised myself a few times — which was pretty fun. It was definitely the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing one of my own books as a reader.
Second, and more importantly, I had a startling realization. The story in my head was not the story on the page. I still thought of my characters the way they were originally conceived. But I had revised the manuscript so many times, so many scenes had been moved or deleted, that some of them bore little resemblance to who they were supposed to be. And the people they became on the page? Not nearly as endearing.
It wasn’t a hard fix, since many of the scenes already existed in some version of the manuscript — and thank goodness I’d saved all those files! But I never would’ve seen these problems without distance.
I’ve heard for years the importance of fresh eyes. And I did try to give myself a break from my stories. A day, sometimes. At most, a week. But I was always in such a hurry, and more time always seemed like a luxury.
Now, I know better.
The time won’t be any easier to find, but at least I know where to aim.
Please share. Have you ever read something you’d written and surprised yourself? How do you find the time to gain the proper perspective on your stories?
6 thoughts on “Got Perspective?”
Love the post…I’ve looked back on a few, actually copied and pasted some into new stories because the scenes were still things I loved, but had come up with a new perspective. Thank you, Pintip.
Hi Pintip – I don’t revisit my work much. Since I began writing again, though, I’ve had a chance to look at FAIR GAME, my one Harlequin American, more than once. I find some of it is charming, and other parts are… not as suave as I thought they were, once upon a time.
On the other hand, I had a chance to re-read a manuscript I’d written with Peter a few years ago. I was thrilled to realize I couldn’t tell who had written what. That’s a collaboration success!
Pintip, you are brave. I would be afraid to look at that manuscript. I believe I committed every sin known to mankind in publishing. I tip my hat to you for doing it. 🙂
Hi Pintip! Isn’t it cool when you read something you’ve written and you have that, “Wow, i wrote that?” moment? I’ve done that and you hit it right on the head. The key is time away. The first writing class I ever took taught me to set the manuscript down for 30 days. I think in today’s fast-paced world of publishing, we don’t always get that much time to step away from it but I definitely see its value. Glad you got that little surprise gift with your story.
Good for you, Pintip!
I recently published on Wattpad the novel I began when I was 11, and the revision of the same novel that I began in high school. It was cool to see how much my writing had developed in such a short time…and also how far I had yet to go. An author I know once likened writing to a tool. “The story in your head is the perfect story,” she said. “You just have to develop the tool to tell it correctly.”
I never feel bad about or ashamed of writing I did when I was younger — whatever muscle that is must be broken in me. Instead, I am fascinated by the differences I see, clunky or not, and I’m happy to share these early works with others in an effort to inspire them to hone their tools as well! xox
I know exactly what you mean. I pulled up an old book I wrote a couple years ago, and I couldn’t remember half of the characters. I didn’t remember a whole secondary plot. lol. I’m not sure what that says about me. Heck, half the time you have to remind me what my character’s name is. lol.
I’m glad you got the chance to read your book as a reader instead of a critic. 🙂 We all should be able to do that. Can’t wait to finally see it IN PRINT!!!
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