Quote of the Day
I teach one semester a year, and this year I'm just teaching one course during that semester, a writing workshop for older students in their late 20s and early 30s, people in our graduate program who are already working on a manuscript and trying to bring it to completion.
The ordinary man looking at a mountain is like an illiterate person confronted with a Greek manuscript.
Creativity runs across many categories in life, from the arts-and-crafts project a mum or dad does with their kids, to the bestselling author's manuscript, to the designs of the hairdresser, to the creations of the computer programming genius.
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.
I think we are waiting for an e-book that even non-techies can be comfortable with. From my point of view, the biggest change is that I don't have to spend most of the day printing out and packaging a manuscript. I think I almost miss that.
Often I sort of work up and down the manuscript. I sometimes used to go ahead of myself to see what was going to happen next, to make certain it fits what was going to be happening soon.
I became a connoisseur of that nasty thud a manuscript makes when it comes through the letter box.
With a computer, you make your changes on the screen and then you print out a clean copy. With a typewriter, you can't get a clean manuscript unless you start again from scratch. It's an incredibly tedious process.
Sometimes I have given my husband a manuscript to read that has turned out to have fantastic rave reviews and he'll tell me it is no good. Well, if I didn't know him as well as I know him I would be terribly depressed.
I am the luckiest novelist in the world. I was a first-time novelist who wasn't awash in rejection slips, whose manuscript didn't disappear in slush piles. I have had a wonderful time.
A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
When you start writing a picture book, you have to write a manuscript that has enough language to prompt the illustrator to get his or her gears running, but then you end up having to cut it out because you don't want any of the language to be redundant to the pictures that are being drawn.
I wrote one terrible manuscript after another for a decade and I guess they gradually got a little less terrible. But there were many, many unpublished short stories, abandoned screenplays and novels... a Library of Congress worth of awful literature.
I began writing 'Matterhorn' in 1975 and for more than 30 years I kept working on my novel in my spare time, unable to get an agent or publisher to even read the manuscript.
As a writer, you have control of the words you put on the page. But once that manuscript leaves your hand, you give control to the reader. As a director, you are limited by everything: weather, budget, and egos.
When I was growing up the publishing world seemed so far away. When my mother wrote a book, she would look up the address of publishers on the backs of the books she owned and send off her manuscript.
I have a color-coded computer spreadsheet that divides things down to chapter fragments. Each character's point-of-view is a different color. The text of the manuscript is color-coded the same way. The last thing I do before submitting the manuscript is turn all those colors back to black.
Traditional publishers require an author to submit a manuscript six months in advance, and if pressed, no later than two or three.
In my office in Florida I have, I think, 30 manuscript piles around the room. Some are screenplays or comic books or graphic novels. Some are almost done. Some I'm rewriting. If I'm working with a co-writer, they'll usually write the first draft. And then I write subsequent drafts.
If you look at an illuminated manuscript, even today, it just blows your mind. For them, without all the clutter and inputs that we have, it must have been even more extraordinary.
Books can now be on the stands within days from delivery of a formatted manuscript, and often are.
Cut your manuscript ruthlessly but never throw anything away: it's amazing how often a discarded scene or description, which wouldn't fit in one place, will work perfectly later.
If you want to send a manuscript, send it to an agent. And send a letter first, asking permission. Launch it into the real world of cold-blooded commercial response, not into the fantasyland of wishful thinking, cowardice and surrender to Resistance.
So far, I've never missed a deadline for a term paper, a review, a manuscript. I perform the mumbo-jumbo of voting with belief in my heart, I've not yet won even a jaywalking ticket, and unlike my father, whom I fault in this respect, I refrain from opting out of jury duty; instead, they mostly kick me out.
William T. Vollmann
John F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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