Find Strength in Your Manuscript

I need to warn you. This post is about shoes. It may include descriptions and details that only shoe lovers will appreciate. Eventually you will see the connection to writing, but it may take a while. So please read on if you have the patience for heels, sandals, and flats. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

Later this month my daughter will attend her Junior Prom. So our house lately has been a flurry of dress shopping, accessory shopping, and shoe shopping. Dress shopping was dreamlike. She found her perfect dress in the first shop. In fact the one she ultimately chose was the first one she tried on. It was a fun outing for us. Lots of smiles, a few bittersweet tears, and even some fits of hysteria. Have you seen some of the prom dresses out there? These are 17 year-old girls, people. It’s the prom, not the academy awards. And definitely not a Vegas weekend for 20 somethings!

Anyway, shopping for accessories was easy-peasy too. No drama, no fights. All good.

But then there was the shoe shopping.

So let me give you some background on my daughter. As a former competitive gymnast, she now has weak ankles. Like, they roll often. After numerous sprains in each, the ligaments are stretched. And though physical therapy has helped, they will never be 100%. She can walk, run, and jump in track, but they will never be strong enough for the rigorous demands of tumbling. Or apparently heels.

So at 17, my sweet daughter has never worn them. We have bought them. She has tried to wear them. She has practiced wearing them. She practically trained to wear two different pairs of adorable 3 and a half inch wedges (one in tan and one in black) on our cruise last month. (You remember, the cruise that never was.) She wobbled down our hallways for weeks trying to walk with confidence and grace. And it was not pretty.

Now this has been a tough pill for me to swallow. My gymnast daughter has always been full of confidence and grace. I mean have you seen a four inch beam or the beautiful floor exercise routines that gymnasts do?? After years of both ballet and gymnastics training, I can tell you my daughter is graceful. But not when she’s wearing heels.

So while shoe shopping, we both decided that a shorter heel was the way to go—still dressy, but more practical. Now I have to say, finding a dressy, sparkly two inch heel is nearly impossible. But after 14 stores, we did find one pair of two and a half inch heels. She tried them on as I held my breath and just like Cinderella, the shoe fit. The shoes looked pretty. My daughter walked across the showroom floor with confidence and grace. The shoes were perfect! And there were smiles. Phew!!

Until last night, when my daughter came to me with a look of sheer terror. She was having second thoughts about her shoes. How could she wear them on the biggest night of her life? How could she be sure she wouldn’t wobble, or her ankles wouldn’t give out?

I tried to reassure her that her ankles would be fine. She would survive a few hours in heels. She would probably take them off once she got to the prom anyway. But with the knowing look of someone who knows her strengths and weakness, she pleaded, “Can we please look for dressy sandals—dressy flat sandals?”

This was at 8:00pm. Her dress fitting was the next day after school. Uggh! So off we ran to the mall. Because seriously, who am I to argue with someone who has that much maturity. Someone who doesn’t care that all the girls will be wearing 7 inch heels. My sweet daughter knew enough that she would be her most confident and graceful self only if she was comfortable.

Our outing was a success. We found beautiful, dressy, perfect–for-her-dress, flat sandals. And she beamed the whole way home!

My whole week was not preoccupied with shoe shopping though. I had a major breakthrough with my revisions. But I didn’t exactly realize what a breakthrough it was until I experienced the shoe shopping drama. See, my middle grade speculative fiction manuscript has been complete for a while. It’s been through countless rounds of revisions over the last year. But there’s been one major problem with it that no matter how hard I tried, I could not fix. It was too long. Like, much too long.

No sooner would I chop a scene, I would find another that needed developing. This cycle went on and on. I knew I needed to cut more, but I was having a hard time doing so. I know it’s important to kill your darlings. Most writers know this. But I guess I needed a breakthrough to help me know which darlings to kill.

My daughter helped me figure it out.

I needed to find my manuscript’s strengths and focus on those. I needed to ask myself, “Why are my readers connecting to this story? What are the best parts? What makes it special and/ or different from other stories out there? The answers were obvious to me. That’s when I decided to develop those areas. I also decided to cut the scenes that wouldn’t make my readers stick around.

And by doing just that, I cut almost 3,000 words! That is HUGE for me!!

So by playing up the strengths in my manuscript, like the relationship between my main character and two secondary characters, and also by revving up certain parts of the imaginative world, I made my story stronger.

Knowing the strength of your manuscript can help you do the same thing. Now see how having the right shoes can help your writing?

Thanks for sticking with me as I tried to make this point!

Have a great week, everyone! I hope your revisions go well…I’m hopeful for the day when my revisions are complete. I’ll be wearing flip flops on that day for sure. 🙂  How about you?

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