A crazy thing happens when you dive headfirst into editing your own manuscript.
When you get wrapped up in a book, you can't help but be transported to that world. I remember being engrossed with The Road and genuinely looking at the sky, amazed that I could see the sun (and that it wasn't hidden behind a solid wall of smoke and dust and ash). When you edit a book, you get a very similar feeling, only more intense.
I wrote my first manuscript for three main reasons:
1) I had such an intense love for the independent book stores in Boston that I had to create a story set in one.
2) I had such an intense empathy for the characters that I was making up in my head that I felt like I would explode if I never wrote them down.
3) I had a Fiction Writing final project to complete and this was a great opportunity to get the ball rolling.
After years of hawking my manuscript to agents, I forgot what made that first manuscript so magical for me. All I could see was its lack of marketability. I edited the first chapter a million times, each time frustrated that my writing was clunky and the pacing was off.
And now I'm bouncing around, reading and editing a chapter a day (which is a lot more mentally draining than it sounds), and I'm hooked into this world again. I want to cry for the well-meaning guy friend who gets his heart broken. I want to simultaneously hug and shake the roommate. I can feel myself wander the aisles of a bookstore in the South End that does not exist in the slightest. It's to the point that I have to remind myself that there is no Katy Sinclair in the real world -- and if there is, she is definitely not the person I wrote about in my book.
(Although wouldn't that be INSANE if she were?)
I just have to be careful of diving too much into the world that I start reading the story knowing what is supposed to happen and not making objective changes to the wording and dialogue. But, still, it feels so damn good to be in love with my first manuscript again. If I don't even make it past the first round, this contest has already done me a world of good.