Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writing Fears: The Manuscript Monsters

Every writer is closely acquainted with the blank page. You know the one: that ghostly white computer screen with the mocking black cursor, or that sickly pale paper one with the dizzying horizontal lines. When we, as writers, are confronted with that blank page, we face the beautiful and mysterious possibilities that our ideas hold. Will our words weave themselves into lyrical masterpieces? Only time will tell!

In equal measure to this euphoric hope and optimism is the overwhelming negativity and fear. The blank page is not only a welcome friend; it is also a threatening foe. Will our words wrestle against our authority? Like stubborn teenagers, will they curse and stay out past curfew and laugh at our attempts to corral them? Or will they become something worse?

Will our manuscripts turn into monsters?

ghostThe Ghost

The Ghost is perhaps the most terrifying manuscript. It is the idea that we fell in love with too hard and too fast. The one that we raced to the keyboard to type, only to sit down with a look of bewilderment, like someone awakening from a daydream. We abandon our beloved, leaving the page empty, white. The Ghost is the blank page manuscript, the one we never birthed. It proves to us that we are commitment-fearing, lazy, unambitious fools. It haunts us.

The Mummy

The Mummy is the manuscript that we (want to) believe is perfect. We treat it like a fallen Pharaoh. We wrap it in bandages to keep it together. Then, we wrap it in the most beautiful prose we can muster — each adjective becomes a ruby, each verb a sapphire, each word of dialogue a diamond. We encase it in a golden cover, our beloved Pharaoh, hidden away in its sarcophagus of jewels and gold. We go so far as to build a pyramid in its honor — each Tweet, each Facebook post, each proud remark to friends and family becomes a brick in the impressive structure that will hold our manuscript. Others come from miles around to admire it. But when they crawl inside the pyramid, pry open the sarcophagus, and peel back the bandages, all they find is a rotting corpse. The Mummy is the manuscript that we desperately try to make perfect and imposing, but that is still horrid. It shames us.

demonThe Demon

The Demon is the manuscript from Hell. It is the big idea, the one that has been simmering down in our subconscious, the one we know we can’t handle, but we summon anyway. We lure it out to the crossroads and try to seduce it into doing our bidding. The Demon pretends to agree, and it behaves, for a while. But then, halfway through, we realize that we were never in control. The ideas are beyond our grasp, every word burns our  fingertips, and it feels like we are not the one writing. And we aren’t. The Demon is the manuscript that we attempted too early, too hastily, too thoughtlessly. The Demon is the manuscript with a mind of its own. It possesses us.

The Vampire

The Vampire is the manuscript that drains us. It is the one for which sit down in front of our notebook, open the proverbial vein, and  bleed onto the page. We pour ourselves, the very essence of our humanity into it, and instead of fulfilling us, it makes us woozy and pale. The Vampire is the tiresome, long-winded, overemotional manuscript. It sucks us dry.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Because, as writers, we know that the Monster has no name, and Dr. Frankenstein is Frankenstein.

frankensteinThe Monster is the manuscript that makes us feel like Gods. When we write the Monster, we feel powerful and omniscient. We manipulate our characters with ease, building them from pieces of forgotten friends, stitching them into our ideals of perfection and imperfection. We create a world of our design. We tell a story for the world. And then, before we know it, the manuscript takes on a life of its own. It runs away from us, lashes out against us. And when we finally glimpse it in the moonlight, we see that it is not the manuscript we created. It has become vile, uncontrollable, grotesque. It is nothing like we planned. It is Our Monster.

At the beginning of the writing process, we all fear our manuscripts will be monsters. We want so badly for our words to morph into a respectable book instead of some Halloween creature. As much as we try to prevent it, at some point in the writing process, our manuscripts will likely become monsters. In fact, if you feel like your first draft is turning into a monster, it probably is. But that’s okay. Keep writing and finish crafting that hideous beast. Then, when it thinks it has won, give it a good revision to whip it into shape. The worst thing you can do is let your manuscript stay a monster.

No matter what, don’t let your fear of bad writing stop you from writing. Now, right now, grab that demon by the horns and get to work.