Tuesday, December 25, 2012


"The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."
--Eustace Clarence Scrubb
 Voyage of the Dawn Treader

There's something exciting about watching stuck things come undone. Band-Aids might hurt coming off, but there's a perverse pleasure in that rip. Same with scabs. And remember when you were a kid, bored in class, and you'd smear Elmer's glue all of the back of your hand just so you could peel it off? Or was that just me? 

Unsticking something is WAY more fun than getting it stuck in the first place (unless you're talking scratch-n-sniff stickers. They trump just about anything, right?)

Anyway, anyone who writes is no stranger to getting stuck. I "finished" my second novel (for which I still do not have a snappy title) some time around late 2005. I thought it was really good--smoothly-written, good plot, etc. In short, the best I'd written so far. It probably was the best I had written to that point. I made a few minor edits and decided it was ready to send out. Then I got stuck on the synopsis and query letter. They are the dual banes of my writing existence, and I know I'm not alone in dreading them.

In this case, they turned out to be a blessing. I put the manuscript aside while I worked on other projects. When I picked it back up a bit later, I realized the manuscript was definitely not ready. Not even close. You know that new Earth-like planet they recently discovered? The one it would take a shuttle traveling at the speed of light about 75 years to reach? Still closer than my manuscript was to being publication-worthy.

Forget the half dozen glaring errors I found on a casual re-read. Forget the loose threads of plot devices I dropped and apparently just hoped no one would notice. A ten page prologue in a MG novel? Really? As my Chautauqua mentor gently (and wisely) advised: That's not a prologue; that's called chapter one.

What in the world was I thinking? 

It's a little embarrassing now. So thank you, wretched synopsis, for sparing me a bunch of form rejections!

Despite this minor (okay, ginormous) epiphany, I still felt this was a story worth telling. I decided to undertake some larger revisions. At first, I tried to make the prologue shorter and more engaging, but after several failed attempts, I suspected that what I needed to do was ditch the prologue entirely and integrate the crucial information along the way. The s-l-o-w reveal. This would mean completely demolishing the manuscript and building it back up from almost nothing. But I  was willing to do it--reluctantly.

I couldn't do it. I made a few half-hearted attempts, then put it away. Every once in awhile, I  opened it and started reading, remembering how much I love this story. I would make up my mind to try again, and I would...but again...Nothing.

Until this past Thursday.  Enter metaphorical adhesive remover. (Industrial strength.)

 It took SIX YEARS 

but I finally figured it out.

I am unstuck! And while the revisions are not going as easily or quickly as I wish they would (Do they ever?) I am making decent progress. I have a workable plan. And the journey, the scab of being stuck, hurt like billy-oh, but it is such fun to see it coming away!


  1. Oh, YES. I do get it. I remember having an almost biochemical "high" the day I solved a seemingly unsolvable problem in one of my stories. It gave me the confidence that carried me on many other manuscript fixes: the answer lies within, and never doubt that it is *in there*.
    Hooray for getting unstuck!

  2. Getting unstuck is the best feeling ever! You'll still find pieces of sticky glue on your wheels from time to time, but now you are on a roll! Lois Szy