Friday, October 19, 2012

Before You Hit 'Send' (Guest Post)

Help me welcome Tamara, who won a guest post in the CAGI giveaway. Seriously, guys, I'm in love with this post! Please read! Please read!

Tamara Felsinger is a YA writer, teacher, and intern at a small publishing company. She blogs here and tweets here. And is all the awesome! 

Before You Hit ‘Send’

You’ve finished that latest manuscript, you’ve polished it, you’ve done the beta thing, you’ve read every book on writing in reach, and now it’s time to start quer-


While your finger’s hovering over the ‘send’ button, hear me out.

You’re going to hate me for even suggesting this – believe me, I’ve been in that impatient mood – but stop and close your email. Close the folder with your manuscript. Open Word or Scrivener or a notebook or whatever you use to write stories, and write another manuscript.

I’m not kidding.

Churn one out fast. NaNoWriMo-style, if you’re that way inclined. It doesn’t have to be long – 30-40k words will suffice. You can plot a bit first if you need to. The point is, this manuscript’s for you, and you alone. It can be that crazy story that’s been sitting in your head for years that you’re sure will never get an agent request because it’s just too crazy. It can be that fantasy you dreamed up at work where a pterodactyl screeches in, plucks you from your desk, and whisks you away, dropping you into a land of jungles and monsters and heroes. It can be that angsty melodrama you’ve always wanted to write but are sure everyone will laugh at you for even attempting. Or, you know, erotica.

So now I’ve completely and utterly bewildered you, let me give my reasons for the insanity.

1. Getting Your Groove Back

Because this work is for your eyes only, it will be in your voice. It’s like writing a diary, only there’s a proper narrative structure. Remember how you read every book on writing in reach? Chances are, in doing so you forgot how to write in your voice. Your manuscript might be textbook-style perfect, but that doesn’t make it a brilliant read. The voice, the flaws, the structure, the passion – everything that’s yours is what will help your manuscript stand out from the others. After you’ve done your mini manuscript, go back to your original one and see the difference. You’ll find yourself asking questions like: Why is that sentence so clunky? Why does my protagonist use such stiff language? Why the heck haven’t I put a pterodactyl in this scene when it so clearly needs one?

2. Stepping Back

I’ll bet the majority of you can look over old manuscripts and see a hundred ways to make them better. You can’t do that with a manuscript you’ve just written. That’s why it’s good to give your brain something else to focus on before going back with fresh eyes (and a fresh love for it).

And, with every manuscript you write, you learn something new. You might realize halfway through your fun draft that you use the words “as though” a painful amount of times. Or you might find a turn of phrase that will blow readers away. There might be a quirk for the antagonist in your fun draft that works in your proper manuscript too, and fixes the plot hole you didn’t know existed until now. You’ll only discover these kinds of things while writing, not while hitting send.

3. You Have a New Manuscript!

Ta da! It’ll probably be crazy, it’ll most probably end up in a shoebox in the shed, but… but

It might not. Granted, it’ll need a lot of work and fixing up, but you’ll still have the first draft of something new that you might want to go back to one day. It’ll be such a relief to have a file full of drafted manuscripts, so if an agent does end up offering representation and you get a book deal, you have other stories to offer the publisher instead of scrambling to write a new one during copyedits and promotions.

Most of you probably won’t follow my advice and hit ‘send’ anyway, which is fine. I know the feeling of needing that manuscript in an agent’s inbox asap. But for those of you who take my advice and try it out, I’ll bet at the end you’ll say “By gum!” – in my head, you all say “by gum” – “By gum, that blog post was right! I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it, but that post was totally right. I did find my voice again and get my groove back!”

Okay, I’m done. I’ll get off the podium. As you were.

(But finger off the ‘send’ button.)


Thank you Tamara for a wonderful post! I'm so adding a dinosaur to my new wip. LOL

So what do you think guys? Is this even possible? Or will it be waaaay tooooo hard? I think it's a great idea! Especially with NaNo coming up!  


  1. I've totally done this, though not on purpose. The time away and writing something different really does bring perspective. Cool and very original post!

  2. Love it! Hmm, how to incorporate a pteradactyl in my WIP? ;)

  3. Love it. Also putting off hitting send can give your MS time to marinate a little bit too.

  4. Haha. I didn't set out to do this but it's what ended up happening. And instead of getting and agent with the first one, I got an agent with the one just for fun. ;)

  5. I'm definitely going to do this great idea and great post. Thanks!

  6. *waves at CP* (Listen to her everyone she knows her stuff!)

  7. AH that's so intense but such good advice - I totally hear you on finally just writing a manuscript that YOU want to write rather than what you think you should write....and finding your voice and groove!! Very cool post :)

  8. Great post!. It's what I did with the manuscript I recently found an agent with (through wonderful CAGI) so I know it works:) The MS was last year's NaNo. I revised like mad (I'm a pantser) and then set it aside for 2 months and wrote a new novel-totally different genre- then I came back to my NaNo and revised like mad and it is SO much better.
    My writing plan is to always have a messy draft to come back too-I love the freedom of not thinking about the rules or anyone else and just writing. It is fun and voice finding and everything else that we need.

    Thanks Tamara!

  9. I hope there is a new pterodactyl trend in the 2014 books.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone! You guys are awesome and you make me laugh!

  11. I like this concept--in theory. Tooooo hard to let the [ahem] 'good' one fester while tackling a whole 'nother book. Maybe a flash fiction piece. A short story. A *very* short novella at the top end.

    But, okay. I shall freely write--and stall--for a bit before revisiting the good one and hitting send. No pterodactyls, though. I'm thinking more along the lines of a clockwork archaeopteryx.