Post Manuscript Syndrome: Symptoms include twitchy fingers, hand cramps, sleepless nights (nightmares of piles of rejection letters), glazed eyes as you await a revert, fleeting smiles to convince yourself and others that all is well in your world (other than the fact that months of thinking, writing and rewriting now hangs in the balance), acidity and a desire to run each time anyone asks you about your writing.
There is no other moment in my writing life as joyous and terrifying, all at once, as the moment I declare to myself that I have a complete manuscript that is ready to submit. I usually drive myself to that point through sheer exhaustion post multiple edits, tweaks and hand-wringing.
I hang on to that last line, that last word, that last restructure, that last deletion, addition, substitution… that very last tweak for as long as I can. There’s a finality to the declaration even though the story will go through multiple edits and possible restructures before it takes on its final form.
I put it aside for a few days/weeks/months before I take another look at it, all the while biting my nails off and opening and closing the file multiple times. I’ll do all manner of things to fine tune the writing – storyboards, story arcs… even a “state-of-mind graph” (new tool and a rather fun one to do) before I am convinced that I’ve caught inconsistencies and that it is indeed ready to be seen by an editor.
There will be the all-important reading by my kids when I’ve learnt to sneak around and watch their expressions as they read, to gauge their instinctive reaction to the story.
There are more days between all this and my actually hitting ‘send’ as I agonise over whether it’s even worth showing.
Moments of certainty: ‘I love what I’ve written’, ‘If someone doesn’t laugh while reading this or get a lump in their throat, they are heartless souls’.
Moments of panic: ‘What if they hate it?’
These are days integral to my writing/publishing process – days allotted for garnering courage and for driving my family crazy with doubts and discussions about everything from the manuscript to the taste of the just-baked cake (baking – another thing integral to my writing).
“It’s brilliant,” they’ve learnt to say, with their mouth stuffed with cake.
“Are you sure?”
“100 percent sure.”
“As good as the last one?”
“And it holds your attention all through?”
“And it’s funny in the parts that it should be funny?”
“Wait, are we talking about the cake or the manuscript?”
“Is it that bad? Oh no! Do I need to start over? Should I even consider sending it out?”
“Just kidding! Send the manuscript. It’s great. Just don’t send the cake to anyone.”
I wish I could hand-deliver manuscripts to editors and hover around them as they read it, even as I keep a watchful eye on their facial muscles. For once I send it out, it’s back to milliseconds of agony as I then wait for a response. I now have names, phone numbers, email ids, even postal addresses that I can hound them at, though I promise I’ve not done that till date. If it’s been longer than my stomach lining can take (wait and stress give me acidity), question marks, ‘hoping to hear from you soon’ and worried emoticons on whatsapp at 1am have usually done the trick. But seriously, no, I’m not so bad. I’ve thought about 1am whatsapp messages but have pinned my hand under my pillow and waited till daybreak. You can ask my bleary-eyed editors.
A couple of nights ago, I finally found my courage lurking in a glass of wine and hit ‘send’. The story for the second book with Squiggle is now out as digital dust, little bits of incomprehensible code making up months of thinking, talking to myself and writing, all waiting to be downloaded and read.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep myself distracted by writing blog posts on writing, reading books so I don’t think about my writing, researching for my next History Mystery (that shall soon lead to a repeat of symptoms mentioned earlier) and checking my inbox at regular ten-minute intervals to, as I said, distract myself from the wait after writing.