But is it “Manuscript Clean”?

 

Photo: Alex Pearson (Creative Commons Flickr)

A lonely discipline, those daily routines. Photo: Alex Pearson (Creative Commons Flickr)

Around the house, there are varying degrees of clean.

  • Everyday Functionality (bathrooms and the kitchen)
  • Having-people-over Clean (add living and dining room)
  • House Guest Spotless (ha, remodel)

I’m learning that it’s kind of the same with the writing life. 

“Everyday” housework involves daily routines: load the dishwasher, wipe the counter, towel down the shower, swish the toilet brush. Not my favorites, but they’re built into my schedule. I do them because I like the results.

It’s the same with daily writing. It’s tough to sit down and get started, but the words add up over time. I like the results.

“Having-people-over” cleaning is on an as-needs basis. By the time guests arrive, I always marvel at how much better the house looks. All that was lacking was motivation, that all-important reason to clean.

The writing-life parallel is posting a weekly installment (when I have a story running at Beyond Austen, which I don’t right now). Knowing that people will be reading my chapter spurs me on to cut the dull parts, to tighten things up. As with housework, I need guests — that is to say, a reason to write.

And then there is “house guest” spotless, when guests will live in our home. Time to haul out those projects I’ve been putting off: painting walls, having the carpet cleaned, sprucing up the garden. The quick fix won’t cut it (like, you know, hiding dirty dishes in the oven).  These projects are a piece of work, but they’re also a blessing in disguise. It’s a relief to be “forced” to do what was needed all along.

Writing-wise, this is where I am with my manuscript. Readers, like house guests, will be “living” in the world of my book, so it’s time to put things right in there. As with the house, it’s a relief to finally do what was needed all along. Are there missing words? (Yes! I keep finding them!) Orphaned quotation marks? (ditto) Passages that clank instead of sing? One by one, I’m rooting out the messes. The end result is absolutely worth the effort.

Then again, while my book is becoming shiny bright, my house is not. Seriously, editing work is, like, all I have done this weekend! If you drop by, I’ll gladly invite you in for coffee, but don’t look in the oven. I might have stashed some dirty dishes in there!

"Practically Perfect in Every Way" Photo: Chalon Handmade (Creative Commons Flickr - kudosfeatures.com)

The finished result? Lovely!  As Mary Poppins says, “Practically Perfect in Every Way”
Photo: Chalon Handmade (Creative Commons Flickr – kudosfeatures.com)

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18 thoughts on “But is it “Manuscript Clean”?

  1. Susan Kaye

    As you know very well, Laura, people are welcome to my home. I’ll give them tea and conversation, but they are not welcome to expect much in the way of tidiness. Old, dusty farmhouses are cheap to rent but a bear to keep pristine. No, impossible. I tend to spend my time tidying up stories rather than break out the Pledge.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      A bear to keep spotless especially in the summer. We have no air conditioning–in this part of Oregon, it’s unbearably hot for maybe two weeks–so at night the window fans are busy supplying us with dust. To save my sanity, I break out the dust cloth only just before guests arrive. They’re knocking on the door, I’m dusting the coffee table! 🙂

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  2. Crystal Thieringer (@cdthieringer)

    This was a great analogy. Even if we hire help for some of those areas (like I’ve been known to do. I really dislike washing floors), it’s that second set of eyes that all our stuff needs. I especially like the regular maintenance stuff, which I suppose is why I keep my blog going. It’s a weekly commitment and most of the time I like the results.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Gots to write more books to hire that help! Although…

      Mom went back to teaching full time when I entered high school, and that meant hiring a cleaner two mornings a week. We had to clear the clutter so that she could do her thing. Who knew?

      The blog does keep me stretched and thinking. Discipline has never been an area of strength, but I am learning.

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  3. Debbie Simorte

    Love this analogy! I’ve let a friend host her annual holiday party at my house for a couple of years, and that gave me serious cleaning incentive. Now she can host at her new home, so I’ve got to schedule house guests or I fear the place will just rot away before I get to it. And books DO trump dishes!

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      I had a great-grandmother who was a farmer’s wife. As the story goes, the chickens would be wandering, the garden unweeded…and she’d be in the house, reading a book. The family story ended like this: “If there was a fire, she’d be saying, ‘But I must finish this chapter first!’

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    1. Laura Hile

      It’s not that I’m picky but gad, I kept finding things as I went along. “This looks pretty good,” I’d say. And then, a missing quotation mark. Or a repeated word. Stuff like that.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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