Daily Archives: June 1, 2010

Manuscript CPR

Last night I slept on the couch.  DH wasn’t mad at me.  Rather, Middle Son was feeling a bit puckish.  On the whole, Middle has more tummy aches than there are species of insects.  When he gets sick, it’s almost always, “I’m gonna puke.”

Eldest, on the other hand, runs high temps.  105 is not unusual.  He almost never runs a fever under 103, and they typically last three or more days.  And that’s with Motrin and Tylenol switched ever four hours. 

My Dear Daughter was a strep throat sickie when she was little, and Youngest is a croup kid.  Dear Hubby almost never gets sick, but when he does, influenza puts him down and out for a week at a time.

It’s funny how different people are more susceptible to different illnesses. 

As writers, I’m sure we put our manuscripts at risk for specific illnesses as well.  I know I’m guilty of flat, supporting characters and misused prepositions.  THAT is a killer for me on rough drafts as well.  Because of these things (and more), my work is cut out for me during the editing process.

I go into an edit knowing I will have to perform CPR on my manuscript.  I will have to tackle some pretty major issues that keep my writing from being strong and healthy.  If I don’t, my novel will flatline.


  • C: Chart.  Diagnose your manuscript and chart the symptoms that need treated.  What are your weaknesses?  How can you fix them?  When I look at a character that needs some more life, I read my manuscript through with an eye only to that character.  I jot notes about what works and what doesn’t.  Take Mama in my chapter book.  She was simply there with no personality of her own.  After a lot of thought, I figured out she should be fastidious.  I charted the characteristics I wanted her to have: dusting and sweeping. 
  • P: Proceed.  Once problem areas have been pinpointed and charted, we need to treat the symptoms.  It’s not enough to diagnose our writing.  We must be proactive, no matter how daunting the task may be.  The next pass through my manuscript involved putting a broom or dust rag in Mama’s hands. 
  • R: Rediagnose.  The worst part about treating an illness is that the manuscript may still be sick.  Fixing one or two problem areas does not always give our writing a clean bill of health.  Sometimes, we have simply cleaned up peripheral problems that allow us to better see the underlying disease.  Other times, by treating one symptom, we get unexpected side effects that need to be addressed.  It does no good to clear up the fever, only to have a nasty rash take its place. 

How do you resuscitate your writing?  What diagnosis does your writing most frequently have?