Ever get beaten by your own manuscript?

It’s been a while since I actually blogged about my writerly experiences and thinking everyone could benefit from my ramblings (okay, I really just wanted to ramble about it anyway since that’s one of the ways I figure out plot problems- aren’t you lucky?) I thought now would be the time to do so!

If you’re new here and haven’t heard about my work in progress let me share a blurb:

The concrete was cool through the thin cotton of his inmate clothing as he tucked his knees to his chest and rocked.  His eyes, fixed as they were on the cot on the other side of his room, were dry and bleary; his mouth felt as though cotton had grown in it; his hands constantly tugged against the restraints binding his wrists together.  The raw scrape of them over his skin only aided in the appeal of friction- the feel of blood trickling down and away from the wound and soaking the gauze bandage still wrapped around his forearms.

Distantly he knew where he was; the off-white of the room and solitary confinement telling him he was back in the asylum.  Still, he couldn’t focus on that and instead thought of escaping this tortured existence; this calamitous life he so desperately didn’t want to endure any longer.  Desperately he, once again, began moving his wrists hoping he could at least break apart the stitches that lay so carefully hidden under the bandage.

What that doesn’t tell you is he’s in the asylum because he has a little problem called erotomania.  Poor guy.  Now for the complication (yes there is one besides the multi-faceted issues in dealing with psychopathologies):  He’s a character from my completed manuscript (very small roll, although integral) and those “other” characters who already have their own book started to take Frank’s story over.  Not cool.  shakes fist You hear that, John and Julianne?!  You already have your own book- now stay put!

If I weren’t dealing with this issue first hand I would probably be laughing and thinking, “It’s your story, you dolt!  Aren’t you in control of it?”  Unfortunately I’m in exactly this position for the obvious reasons- not reigning the story in and controlling it as I should have from the beginning.  I fell into that rabbit hole of involving characters that need only be involved in the periphery in a more plot-integral manner.  And of course I let that happen because it felt so nice and comfortable writing those characters again as well as enjoying the exploration of their relationship.  What I SHOULD have been doing all along was focusing on my poor protagonist from this WIP and how his issues play out in all aspects of his life.

Normally I’m not an outliner.  I relegate myself to that task only as I write so I can go through it and, with a quick glance, see what happened when so I could go back and either fix it or reread so I have the details straight in my head.  With this story I’m still holding to my “no detailed outline written beforehand” methodology but am thinking it would have behooved me to jot more notes or annoyed a friend/colleague with the story until I successfully talked some sense into myself.  Instead of waiting until last night.  When I already have more than 10k words written (I’ve already deleted 2k of them thanks to this).

Anyone else have this almost schizophrenic type problem with their characters?  Perhaps it’s more a dominatrix/slave situation?  Regardless- pantser?  Half-pantser?  Outline ad nauseum?  Wee bit of outline?  Love to hear from any/all with words of wisdom in being the one wielding the whip instead of the one bearing the brunt of it.

Mean characters.  I think they’re laughing at me.  Just deleted them- I hear no more laughing.  Except my own.  Muhahahahaha!


22 responses to “Ever get beaten by your own manuscript?

  • Jan

    Since I am not a writer I don’t know if this would be helpful, but I always imagined that a timeline would be useful when writing because then there is causation and a progression that makes sense but does not necessarily need to be used linearly in the story–I know authors who jump all over the place timewise but they always know where they are going because of the timeline (at least I suspect this is true). Also highly recommend R. Heinlein’s Grumbles From the Grave. In it he speaks to some interesting approaches if I remember this correctly.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll be sure to check out that work by Heinlien. A time line could work but it’s something I’ll have to ponder. The other wip was so much more clear in premise from the outset… This one just has me vexed.

  • Anna C. Bowling

    Bwaahahahahahahahaha, yes. Welcome to my world. I have the h/h of one ms doing the “if you don’t know, we’re not going to tell you” thing and the novella I’m stumbling through has a plot and characters but no names yet and once again, the historical period is making *me* find *it.*

    I work things through best by blabbering at others as well. Maybe we should connect and see if our blabbering is complementary.

  • DL Hammons

    I’m an outliner. Can’t help it. Picked it up in college when I was forced to write those complicated term papers. But I also write mysteries, so it comes in handy for laying out clues and plot twists. Even still, I’ve had minor characters take on a life of their own and force me to alter the outline. Bottom line – outling can be very useful, but it mustn’t be so rigid that it cramps your creativity.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I actually envy you your ability to outline. I tried that with my first manuscript and after a few chapters of writing realized the whole outline was hogwash. So- out it went. Never bothered trying to do one after that excepting what I do now (outline what has already been written). I agree with your sentiments completely. I’m thinking for my next manuscript there will be an outline done, if nothing else, for the historical elements I’m going to want/need to include and the order I want to present them in.

      If there’s one thing I continue to learn in this process it would be there are always things you can improve… Perhaps an outline pre-composition is in my future!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, D.L!

  • Carol Kilgore

    I’m a half-pantser. I know main characters, general setting, beginning, a few plot points, and how I THINK it will end. Twists come as I write, as does most of the information about the characters beyond name, rank, and serial number. I add/delete a lot in first draft. In this one, something didn’t feel right after the first chapter. Around chapter ten (my chapters are fairly short) I figured out what it was. I went back and wrote a completely new first chapter and moved it ahead of the old one, which became Ch.2. The new chapter completely altered the tone of the book.

    • kimberlyloomis

      It seems as though we’re of a similar mindset with our writing, Carol. I have about the same amount in my head when I start as you do. Did changing the first chapter, and of course making the previoius beginning into the second chapter, require you to do even more editing? I tend to wait until I’m done before doing edits but am kind of shaking in my boots that this time I just won’t be able to.

      • Carol Kilgore

        I go straight through first draft before starting over again. However, when I added this chapter, it changed a lot of things for one character. I was several chapters in, so I went through those chapters and changed things I knew would need it. When I start second draft in a few weeks, there will be much more to change.

      • kimberlyloomis

        Admittedly I kind of want to go back and fix things now but I wind up getting hopelessly stuck in the “fix one more thing” mode before getting back to moving the story forward. Sounds like you have a good system going, Carol. I think I could pick your brain for an eternity about how you go about things… so. many. questions. 🙂

        For now I shall get back to blog posts for next week, then I shall try and recreate the 500 words my computer lost on my wip.

  • Galen Kindley

    You know, Kimberly, this is an old problem. I think every writer has dealt with this issue. I, like you, don’t outline. BUT, for my next work, I’m gonna give it a limited try. I’m going to try to outline from a macro perspective–to see what happens. I’m also going to outline just before writing a chapter as getting too detailed, too far in advance just doesn’t seem to work so well.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

    • kimberlyloomis

      Excellent idea, Galen. Truly. I’m thinking that’s just what I might have to start employing on this current project as well. Thanks!

  • J.L. Campbell

    Outlining saves time for me. I write out the major plot points and then as I go along, I jot a sentence or two on what’s supposed to happen in the chapters.

    But there are also times when the story gets ahead of the plan, and that’s okay too. 🙂

    • kimberlyloomis

      That also sounds like a good idea! I think I just have issues with outlining because I do get really detailed then when it gets derailed I wind up looking upon the outline and try to force it to work. Eventually I acknowledge that doesn’t work but I like to justify the time I spent on the stupid outline by really, really, really trying to use it. My own stubbornness seems to be the bigger issue here than the outline itself! Boy am I learning loads of stuff this week. 🙂

  • ElanaJ

    Oh, I’ve had this with my characters. I’ve had to put them in their place, as it were. I’ve written “death” scenes when they won’t cooperate with me. But mostly, I just let them rule my world.

    Le sigh.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I’m with you on that Elana. This is the first time it’s happened to this extent, thank goodness, and can be rectified without TOO much work. Mostly.

  • Doralynn

    I know what you mean about shaking your fist… and I’m always calling myself a dolt when I let my characters take over everything. They never clean up after themselves. My son is tidier than they are.

    Unfortunately, I identify all too well with the characters run amok problem.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I’m just nodding along to that, Dora. My son’s two and he also falls into the “tidier than my characters” category.

  • Corra McFeydon

    I’m a pantser, but I think it’s only because I lack the patience to plot? I have notes all over, but never in my life have I written a character bio, and I never will. A lot of the detials are plotted in my brain – and filed accordingly. Does that count?

    I want to try outlining, but every time I try I get bored. The characters guide the story, so I have to bring them to life to know what’s going to happen next.

    And when I plot beforehand (which I have tried) the story becomes sterile. It’s more fun to sit down without a clue and see what happens. I wrote my Nano book that way. I didn’t even know the title or the main chacter until I sat down. I just thought… ‘I’m thinking WWI… a nurse’ and started writing.

    I’m going to try this time to outline as I go. I’ve never done it before, and it might help with the plotting and help me to organize my notes… which are everywhere.


    ~ Corra

    from the desk of a writer

    • kimberlyloomis

      Corra- Best of luck with the outlining as you go! I get married to any outline I do unless it’s to make notes of what I’ve already written I get a bit too… well, I just won’t let go even if it doesn’t work then it winds up a big ole mess when it comes time to editing. *sigh* I have decided to go with notes as I write- for future plot points. Let me know how your outlining goes!

  • Please be patient while your world is built… Thank you. « The Perpetual Writer

    […] is already around 40-45k words) and go forth with a new idea.  That other manuscript was just not flowing right for me.  The premise, so simple when I started, got lost in the muck of new ideas and a shift in […]

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