Tweak It, But Don’t Bruise It.

It’s not always easy for a writer to say goodbye to the story they’ve worked on for months or even years. We work our way through the first draft and any number of other drafts deemed so very necessary. We head into edits, cutting away and adding new scenes. We look for perfection in our manuscript. It needs to be perfect, right? How can you send it off into the publishing world if it isn’t?

But how do we know when to stop tweaking? When do we decide it’s good enough?

Seems no matter how many times we go through a manuscript we can find something to change, something that can be made better. We switch around sentences, check on grammar, work on punctuation, fix the dialogue, and once we’ve gone through it for the last time we end up going through it again. Sound familiar?

While tweaking is a essential to any story there’s a point where we have to decide that enough is enough. At some point we have to release that tight grip we have on our manuscript and trust that somehow our story will end up on the right editor’s desk.

Can a manuscript be bruised?
I suppose that depends upon the person who’s doing the tweaking, but I feel certain in saying that at some point we can push our stories over the edge. Too much polishing can take off that lustrous shine. Tweaking a manuscript is essential; bruising it however might be considered abuse. But let’s not be judgemental, we’ve all been there at one time or another.

I’m in the tweaking stage at the moment, getting down to the nitty-gritty. I’ve rolled up my sleeves. It won’t be long now I’ve promised myself, and I plan to stick to it. It’s ready. I’m ready. That’s just how it has to be.

I’m going to make sure not to leave my poor manuscript bruised beyond the point of recognition. I don’t want to wake up one day, read through that story I started out with
one last time, only to realize it’s no longer the same story I fell in love with so many months ago.

How about you, do you think at some point you can bruise your precious manuscript or do you think that there’s no such thing as too much tweaking?

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  1. I have a very very hard time knowing when to stop fiddling with any given story.

    • Hi Sonia. Nice of you to drop in. I’m afraid many of us find it difficult to resist that urge. Be brave, know when to say enough is enough.

  2. I am proof of it. My ms has a black eye.

    • Oh dear, Tricia. That sounds a bit extreme. I hope it doesn’t come out swinging with both fists. You might have to duck!

  3. I’m working on rewriting my MIP. There’s a lot I feel I need to fix but I don’t want to overdo it either.

    • Fixing what needs fixing is a definite must. All manuscripts have problems. The more we write the more we begin to pick up on what really belongs and what doesn’t. There is a balance.

  4. Cathy

     /  April 18, 2011

    I agree that a piece can be over tweaked and lose some of the initial magic. One reason it can happen is because a writer has the work critiqued by a lot of people who have various opinions about how they think the work should be. I’m speaking from experience as often I’ve followed critiquers’ advice and changed a story to the point where it’s unrecognizable from my idea that I loved in the first place. Listen to critiquers but be selective about what you want to change. If they all point out the same problems in the work, then change them by all means. If it’s something you don’t agree with and the critiquer is imposing their writer’s voice on the work, don’t change it. After all, they’re not the ones writing it, you are.

    • You make an excellent point, Cathy! Listening to too many people can be confusing. We all have our own style and we need to recognize this in others writers as well. As you say, if several people tell you the same thing then that’s a good indication that there is a problem present that needs fixing.

  5. No different than raising kids. Tweak & polish ‘em as they grow up, & then ya move away when they’re not lookin’.

    I think when you’re dealing with only a word here & there, it’s a pretty good signal to back away before ‘bruising’.

    • Ha! Move away when they’re not looking, eh? That sounds like a plan. Obviously changing a word or two, or worrying about commas and other little things doesn’t make or break a story even though we might think it will. Perfection seldom prevails. You’re right, Dave, backing away is certainly appropriate at that point.

  6. I have bruised a lot of manuscripts in my time. Thank you for the great post addressing that problem!!

    • You’re welcome, Sue! I have a few manuscripts that come to mind, myself. Sometimes it’s best to go with our gut feeling.

  7. This post found me at the perfect time. I was in the process of bruising my manuscript and only just realized it. The other day I started sifting through the critiques and comments my novel had gotten over the past couple of months and finally realized: just because I’m grateful for my critters input doesn’t mean I have to change everything they say. Thank you for the post! Hopefully I’ll be able to rescue the story I started out writing so long ago.

    • Welcome to my blog!! I’m glad you happened along when you did! We certainly want to be able to recognize that gem we started out with. Good luck with the rescue mission.

  8. I’ve always struggled with letting go. Just as you mentioned, every time I pick it up I find something to change. Then finally I did let it go, and guess what? Now I’m tweaking all the stuff the editor and copyeditor want fixed. If this thing ever goes to press it’ll be amazing.

    • Ha! Oh, it’ll get there, Joylene and it will sparkle like moonlight on the lake. No matter how much tweaking or revision we do it’s still going to need more once we get into the editing phase.

  9. Yes! I submitted a 200-page written report to a client last month and I thought it was nearly perfect. The response back was – cut it to 100 pages. I’ve done that, and it’s more than just bruised. It’s nearly dead. :-(

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