It looked as if someone had been murdered in my office.   The pages bled.  The words, “Needs work, New transition, Huh?, Barf, Gag!, and Really?” showed up more and more regularly with scribbles, lines, and arrows forming artwork in the margins.

There was so much red ink on the pages that, in frustration, I slashed entire sections without reading them.  The pile of 263 pages in front of me were padded, emotional drivel.  My eyes rolled to the back of my head like a teenager discussing curfew.  “Oh puh-lease,”  I said out loud.

I tossed the pen onto my desk and turned to the computer.  Time for a break.  I checked my email.  There was only one.  It was an ad for a “body cleanse,” which would detoxify, resurrect a sluggish body and rid it of unnecessary elements.

Hmmm…it sounded a lot like editing a bad manuscript.

“If you’ve ever felt run-down, depressed or ill…,” it read.  This was exactly how I was feeling as I worked through this manuscript.  “Cleansing is a great way to detoxify yourself and clear out the poisons from your system.”

A good cleanse (as opposed to a bad one) promised “clarity on what your body really needs, not craves.”  It would also help me lose weight and improve my complexion.  I glanced at the stack of papers.  I yanked out all the ones that looked bloody or had fatal slashes.  I started to feel happier, lighter, almost giddy as the pages circulated to the recycling bin.  I felt cleansed.  I felt as if the poisons had been cleared from my body.

“This is the perfect way to get in tune with your body and really get back to basics,” the email advised cheerfully.

I slicked a yellow highlighter over the words, phrases and nineteen sentences in the manuscript that had merit.  “What was this story about?” I asked myself.  “Why was it important?  Why was I wasting my time on it?”

The email was right, with the deadly drivel discarded, it was better and leaner.  It was time to get back to basics.

“It forces you to give up the vices that you take for granted, break your bad habits and start again from the beginning.”

Hmmm…I grinned as I turned from the computer, looked at the questions I’d jotted to myself:   What is this story about?  Why is it important?   I flushed the remaining pages into the recycling bin, and with the poisons out of my system,  I opened a new file and started again.

Trust me, cleansing works…at least, for a bad manuscript.

© 2012 Sue Farrell Holler