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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .

LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .

BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .

SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .

SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .

M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .

ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .

STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .

GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .

JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .

JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff’s abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .

LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star. Read more. . .

ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .

ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” Read more. . .

In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    That’s what love is: learning to love what your lover loves.Greg Brown, husband of Iris DeMent

    Mama taught me to tell my truth.Iris DeMent, wife of Greg Brown

    Your manuscript owns you. This might not seem obvious at first, but it is a fact that every writer (eventually) comes to accept. The manuscript—not the writer—gets to decide when things begin, where things go, and how things end. All the writer can do is cling to their manuscript with all their strength and try to love whatever that manuscript loves.

    So, with no further ado, here are fourteen tried and true ways to love what your manuscript loves:

    1. Blatantly

      Manuscripts, honestly, are even shyer than their notoriously shy authors. Your ms does not necessarily want to be talked about to your friends. However, it does want you to respond when it calls to you and make sure nobody interrupts you or stops you from pursuing it.

      So be a dragon. Stand guard over your manuscript’s tender little personal space.

      Know thy manuscript.
    2. Under a spotlight

      Manuscripts are secretive, so you have to turn the limelight on them and make them dance.

      Personally, I always hated the idea of going on-stage clear up until I won a minor poetry award in college and had to go behind the mic to read my poem. Suddenly I loved it! I could have stayed all night! Maybe they’d like me to read something else while I was there—say, Moby Dick?

      This is your manuscript in front of the footlights. Throw the switch.

      Know thy light switch.
    3. In conversation

      Manuscripts are inveterate eavesdroppers. Speakers are utterly fascinating to them.

      No matter how dull or pointless or rambling the conversation, your ms wants to record it all and then mull it over in privacy. Why did she say that? What was he doing while he wasn’t answering? Where would this have all gone if they hadn’t been interrupted? And how did that interruption catapult them into further complications between them?

      Listen for your manuscript out among the madding crowds, and it will reward you with great riches.

      Know thy ears.
    4. Publicly

      Manuscripts are also unscrupulous spies. They want to know absolutely everything everybody does.

      They want to be constantly holding things up to themselves like clothes in front of a mirror: Would this fit? Would that work? What if I went over there and did the other thing? How would it turn out if I made this happen and reacted to it that different way?

      Be your manuscript’s vision upon the world, and it will reward you with gold in abundance.

      Know thy eyes.
    5. Falling asleep

      Manuscripts are also wicked Imps of Satan and love to disturb your sleep.

      This is because they get the most freedom when you’re too tired to fight back.

      There is a magic moment when you have quit caring about the responsibilities of the day but have not yet succumbed to the wayward randomness of dreams—Proust introduced his entire ouvre, Remembrance of Things Past, with a nearly endless soliloquy on that very tiny space. Guess from whence those seven classic volumes sprang?

      Know thy magic moment.
    6. In a bad mood

      Manuscripts have no shame. Your ms likes you no matter how awful you are.

      In fact, it likes you best when you’re at your wit’s end.

      It especially likes leaning over your shoulder pointing out exactly how you move and speak and think when you’re least likely to appreciate such solicitude. It is your overbearing siblings at their very worse.

      Fight it off, and it just gives it that much more material. And the more you try to ignore it, the more powerfully present is its note-taking. That means the greater detail you will recall later, with a cooler head, when you are done throwing your tantrum and are ready to sit down and convert it into the internal conflict from which all great protagonists suffer like the blazes.

      Know thy rage and suffering.
    7. During inappropriate activities

      Manuscripts like to imagine themselves chronicling what has never been chronicled before. This doesn’t mean you are going to chronicle those things. But your ms wants to know what it would be like if it did.

      So pay a little attention.

      Just the tiniest details, the most fundamentally true elements dropped into references in your scenes can snap a story around and reveal the underlying tension of which your characters refuse to speak. Notice what nobody else has ever mentioned. Ask yourself, “How is this moment, right now, changing me permanently? How will I be different from now on forever?”

      Don’t tell your partner.

      Know thy secrets.
    8. With a microscope

      Manuscripts are so extraordinarily complex and multifaceted that nobody, in truth, ever tells the complete story exactly perfectly. There is always stuff that falls by the wayside.

      But is it the right stuff?

      Your ms doesn’t want to let go of any tiny spec of information about itself without a thorough review, and you shouldn’t either. Those tiny specs are what create three-dimensional worlds in which your characters seduce your readers into their eternal clutches.

      Sondra Day once advised treating emotional baggage as garbage and throwing it out as fast as possible without stopping to sort it. But she wasn’t a storyteller.

      Sit down with your ms and meticulously sort through it.

      Know thy garbage.
    9. With a bullhorn

      Manuscripts also like to whisper and look the other way just when things get hairy. They long to be drawn out. And you’re going to have to be the one to do it.

      You know that moment in Nancy Horan’s disastrous novel, Loving Frank, when the protagonist leaves her husband for Frank Lloyd Wright, only Horan doesn’t show the protagonist actually doing it? She skips right over it and goes on her merry apple-cheeked way to the worst ending to a cute little love story ever?

      Whip out your bullhorn whenever you come to such pivotal, life-altering, load-bearing scenes in your story and yell through it, “She looked at her husband! She said, ‘I’m leaving you for Frank!’

      Know thy story.
    10. Before it matters

      Manuscripts are not born on the page. They are born in the deep, dark roots of your past, somewhere years ago when somebody said that thing to someone else that one time.

      Always be paying attention to the manuscripts you have not yet conceived. Collect details, data, trivia, facts, impressions, faces, names, gestures, ideas. Let them burble around in your subconscious, stewing in their juices. Let them take from each other, give to each other, trade meanings and references. Let them alter each others’ chemical make-up.

      Someday you’re going to need all that stuff in a form you cannot yet imagine.

      Know thy life.
    11. After the fact

      Manuscripts don’t stop needing love and affection when you think they do.

      Please believe me when I say this.

      I see dozens and dozens and dozens of manuscripts, every single one of them polished to the full extent their writers think they can possibly be polished. And not one of them is finished.

      When you have done everything you possibly can for your ms in this incarnation, set it kindly aside and go on to other things. Raise your kids. Do the laundry. Go on vacation. Finish building your house. Start another ms.

      Your ms is still living and growing in the back of your mind, all the time you’re doing other things, and that life and growth are essential to its publishable version.

      Know thy patience.
    12. When you have exhausted all other options

      Manuscripts are an endless dump of everything you don’t know what else to do with, the infinite acceptance of all you are that makes no sense.

      Your ms loves being that for you. Go ahead. Let it be.

      When you have no resources left, when you have been sucked dry and thrown aside, when you are but a shell of the persona you fondly believe yourself to be. . .go back to your manuscript. Sink into your fictional dream. This is why you write—this bond between your story and you.

      Know thy passion.
    13. On the ground

      Then get up out of your chair or down off your bar stool or pedestal or wherever you’ve been hanging out, lay both palms on the ground, and be intensely grateful that it is there.

      The planet on which you live is the source of everything good and bad and creative and fictional coming your way.

      Know thy source.
    14. With your arms thrown open

      And finally stand up and throw your arms wide to the sky and the sun and the rain and the wind and the stars.

      You will never get it all down in words. You will never triumph over the unknowable. And this is your saving grace. Because if you could get it all down in words once and for all—triumph over the unknowable—then fiction as an art form would die, taking all of us who love writing it along with it.

      Know thy grace.

    But what exactly is it that your manuscript loves? This magical thing you’re struggling to love in fourteen different ways?

    Oh, that one’s easy. It’s always the same eternal, ephemeral work:

    Thy truth.



    “The freshest and most relevant
    advice you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories




2 Responses to “14 Ways to Love What Your Manuscript Loves”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elizabeth S Craig , Tim, David Mark Brown, Margot Kinberg, Maribeth Graham and others. Maribeth Graham said: RT @elizabethscraig: 14 ways to love what your manuscript loves: […]

  2. Terrific post! I’m going to stop feeling weird about having a relationship with my manuscript. 😉 I really love no.s 13 and 14. Thank you!