Sunday, September 9, 2007

To Kill a Manuscript . . .

Ever have doubts about your manuscript? Ever wonder why you can't write one in 8 months like everyone else? Ever wanted to throw your manuscript in the garbage?

Consider This . . .

It took Harper Lee at least five years to write To Kill a Mockingbird. Including not less than 2 1/2 years of re-writing.

On one particularly frustrating night in 1958, she threw the manuscript out of her apartment window. Fortunately, she called her editor who then convinced her to go outside and round up the pages.

From all that frustration, doubt, and hard work came 88 weeks on the bestseller list, a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar winning movie, and over 30 million copies sold in 18 languages. It makes everyone's top ten of the century and is considered by many to be the best novel ever written.

12 comments:

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

I don't know that I would be able to stay with a project much longer than eight months. I have started novels, got bogged down and stopped writing until later, sometimes years later in the case of my latest one "Write To Murder," and go back to finish it. But to stay on one novel for years I don't think I could do that, but then I'll most likely never write a Pulitzer Prize one either, so there is that. This new on, "Misdemeanors and Felonies," my fictionalized autobiography I feel is going to take quite a while. Fictionalized autobiography?, you say . . . Yep, it is the only way I think I can get it done and I must get it done, if only three people in the world reads it . . . My children . . .

Mike Duran said...

I'd suggest this is exactly why good literature is so hard to find. Nowadays, writers are signed to crank out books, not polish and tinker and rewrite. Five years is unacceptable for agented authors. My gosh, how can someone make a living at a book every half decade? And how can someone maintain a readership at that pace? I think this is one of the most measurable, obvious distinctions between good writers and bad ones -- the amount of time one is willing to spend on a manuscript. That modern readers don't care only intensifies the pain.

donna fleisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Donna, did you delete your comment or did I accidently do it?

Sorry if it was me!

I was going to say in response: That was a long time ago in a land far, far, away.


Mike, I absolutely agree with you. The problem is even worse with CBA since they pay their authors percent of wholesale, not retail like ABA. (at least, that's what I've heard.)

The only way I can give the proper time is to work full time and spend three years writing on the side. If CBA gave their writers a bigger piece of the pie, then they might get the quality and production they claim to be looking for.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

I see I have been chastised . . . Sorry that I write trash and do not take three to five years to write it . . . Of course I don't work, so that does free up a few minutes of the day in which I can muddle along . . . Of course I never said I wrote good literature . . .

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Jerry, I'm not sure Mike was speaking directly at you. I think his is a general statement. There are exceptions.

Dean Koontz puts out a book every 6 months or so it seems. And they are quality.

Some of us are faster than others.

What Mike is referring to is that many published novelists can't afford to take the time to write the novel they want to write because they are pressured to put one out fast or find another job.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

I didn't see that in his comments, I did see them in your, however . . . No biggie . . .

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

It took me 1 1/2 years to write my first draft.

I would like to think that I could do it in 8 months or less if it was my full time job.

The problem is I have two full time jobs. One pays the bills, one doesn't. So the second one, my writing, gets put on the back burner. This is even harder for someone like Mike, who has a family. That would be almost impossible for me considering how slow I write. I would, as I'm sure Mike often does, opt for neglecting my writing instead of neglecting my family.

The point of my post was: If you're like me and you can't write a book in 8 months, don't worry -- you're in good company.

But, if you sign a contract, it's usually for 3 books. You get a small advance and now you have to get the next one done faster than you did the first. So, more often than not (I assume) quality suffers.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

Good . . . Let's leave it at that . . . You have a nice site here . . .

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Thanks, Jerry.

I'm Looking forward to Saturday.

donna fleisher said...

Hey Dayle -- nope, I deleted it. Too much attitude. : )

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Just when I was about to say something like "You go Girrll."