Of Manuscripts and Mayflies

This homely little fellow is a mayfly nymph. He hatched from an egg on the bottom of a stream. He lives at the very bottom of the river, down in the muck. He hides from the light and keeps between, and sometimes under the rocks.

He’ll live there for a whole year. He grows, and has to shed his skin multiple times. The withered husk simply drifts away on the stream. It kind of looks like him, but it has no soul. No personality. It’s almost like the nymph has to discard some things as he grows and evolves.

A novel starts out as a manuscript. Think of it like a novel nymph. It hatches from an outline, or even just a loose idea in a writer’s mind. It hangs out in the dark too. It’s habitat could be a spare bedroom, garage or even a closet/office. It too has to go through an evolution. Chapters go off to critique groups and come home as withered husks that only resemble the manuscript in a superficial way. Characters get combined, or even change genders. They get new names and evolve. Still, it stays in the dark growing in word count over a period of about a year.

After about a year, our mayfly nymph is as big as he needs to be. He’s been through many revisions and must shed his skin one last time. He comes into the light and swims to the top of the stream, wriggling out of his final skin.

A manuscript also steps into the light. It goes off to beta readers, who read the entire manuscript from the very beginning. These wonderful people suggest things that can make the story stronger and more coherent.

The nymph has to dry out a bit. He isn’t exactly a nymph anymore, but something in between stages. He has wings now, but they’re wet and wrinkled. He needs a bit of time in the sun.

The manuscript goes off to an editor. It needs a bit of polish too. Not much, just a bit here and there to let it put it’s best image forward.

Our nymph is gone forever. He is a fully fledged mayfly now, and a very handsome fellow to boot. His lines are estheticly pleasing, and he has a brilliant color. Anyone would be lucky to spot him and revel in his magnificence.

The manuscript is gone forever too. It is now a fully functional novel. It has a brilliant cover indicating the promise within. An enticing blurb greets all those lucky enough to spot it.

The mayfly scans the skies as the sun warms him up from his aquatic beginnings. He has one task left to compete. He must find a mate.

The novel goes through a waiting process too. The author has to upload everything to Amazon, or some other book vendor. There is some formatting to check, and it too is ready to take flight. It’s final job is to find a reader.

The mayfly spreads it’s wings and launches itself into the air.

The author pushes the publish button and cracks open a well earned beverage. Both the novel and the mayfly take flight, only to discover…

Welcome to the Amazon baby

There are other mayflies and novels competing for attention. Enough to to blot out the sun, both figuratively and literally.



Filed under Writing

32 responses to “Of Manuscripts and Mayflies

  1. Excellent analogy. Complete with that oddly bitter ending.


  2. Ah yes, lots of other mayflies out there. As an author that can be tough, but as a reader it’s wonderful. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the analogy. No caterpillars and butterflies from Craig! You have an amazing, uniquely odd, imagination, but I’ve told you that before. I’m sort of discouraged right now. Trying to keep the faith that I’ll, at some point, produce something I am satisfied with.


  4. Kentucky Angel

    Love the analogy. I always knew it was more work getting the book published than writing it (I jest) but never could have worded the process quite like this. More like giving birth–naturally, as only a woman could do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great comparison! I think my mayfly’s hibernating at the moment :-/


  6. This post… it’s so… so… Well, let’s just say I think it’s my favorite of all time. Love it, just doesn’t seem strong enough. AMAZING — more appropriate. The ending photo: “Welcome to the Amazon, baby.” Perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awesome post! I have been in a “mayfly storm” before. Great comparison to authors and their works. It says exactly how I feel sometimes. That ending really nails it.


  8. Ali Isaac

    Wonderful, Craig! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice analogy πŸ™‚
    Love the yellow Mayfly, isn’t he lovely?! πŸ˜€


  10. And there I thought you were going to say the novel lives only a few hours, like a mayfly.


  11. Beautiful post on the evolution of a novel. πŸ™‚ I hope mine will be able to evolve as yours has. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. WOW! What a brilliant metaphor!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Black Cats Aren’t Just for Halloween by Mae Clair | From the Pen of Mae Clair

  14. Reblogged this on that scribbler and commented:
    What a way put it! My manuscript suddenly feels so much more important!


  15. Ha ha ha. Indeed. Welcome to the Amazon. Great metaphor and pix. One of my fav posts here.


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