Thursday, May 12, 2011

To Bury or Unbury......

So, Nathan Bransford's post yesterday got me thinking a little bit. (He wrote about putting a manuscript in a drawer). See, the project I am working on right now is actually a major overhaul-total rewrite of my very first novel. A manuscript I have shoved in a drawer and pulled back out again more times than I can count.

This book has tortured me for years. I just can't leave it alone. I want to sometimes. It makes me feel a bit like a one trick pony to keep reworking the same book over and over instead of spending my time on something new. However, considering how ridiculously close I came when I first wrote this book, and how much people who read it, love it....and how much I love it...I just can't let it die.

So I pulled it out of the drawer again a few months ago. I don't think this is the way to go for all shelved manuscripts. I have several that will never see the light of day again :D But this one....this one I think has the characters, the voice, and the story to make it.

I've learned so much since I first wrote this book. And every time I pull it out, I'm filled with ideas on how to improve it. This doesn't happen with some other projects of mine. I read some, shudder, and rebury it as fast as possible.

But this one....this one wants to make it. So out of the drawer it came again, and it will hopefully be on its way to my agent very shortly :)

How do you decide when or if to bury a manuscript? And how do you know if unburying is worth the time or just denial?

11 comments:

  1. That is such a difficult question to answer. I have a similar ms, also one of the very first I wrote. It's changed so much since that first draft it's barely recognizable as the same story. I've written others that I've permanently drawered, but I, like you, keep coming back to that one. I guess it comes down to trusting your instincts. I know there's some magic in there or I wouldn't keep coming back. At the same time, there are days that I hate it and wish I'd never written it - lol! No matter what happens to it ultimately, I will say that I've learned more about writing through that manuscript than any other, so that makes it worth it regardless of whether it gets published.

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  2. Try rewriting it WITHOUT taking it out of the drawer.

    What I mean is, take your characters, and whatever premise you are happy with, and write it again. You should know the characters better by now, so they should be making more organic decisions, and you're probably a better writer now, so looking back at hundreds of pages of old writing isn't going to be very productive. I think you'll be surprised at how fast it comes out.

    Hope that helps!

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  3. Great question. Sometimes I put a manuscript down if I come to the point where I have nothing left to give to it and need to take a critical step back. Then in a few months or even a year in the case of one manuscript I can come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, it's a matter of changing the perspective or as Tere said, rewriting it with a fresh vision. Sometimes, I come back with a hard look at the characters, knowing that perhaps some need to go.

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  4. Very insightful article and comments! I think every writer has to answer these tough questions at some point. We all have those tricky novels that won't be perfected and won't let us go. I'm working on mine right now. I don't know if I'm in denial or if I'm just being a tough guy, but I do know that working through a difficult manuscript/story is teaching me a TON, like Julie said.

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  5. I buried my first novel once I got to the 100 mark on rejections. I've learned so much more since then that I'm afraid if I take it out, I will actually lose what I love about it. So it stays forever and ever.

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  6. I had a fantasy short story that I wrote years ago that has been nagging at me lately. I was thinking about dragging it out, and then purely by coincidence I picked up a collection of fairy tales that I hadn't read in years.

    I started noticing elements of this short story in these fairy tales, and was embarrassed to realize that the short story was just a mashup of several fairy tale themes. A reflection of the fact that I wrote the story when I was about 19. So that one will stay in the drawer, but I feel more at peace with the decision.

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  7. Well, if a story never got nibbles or interest in the query process, I just let it go and put it away. Ofcourse, there is one I WANT to revisit and others, that, like yours, will never resurface. I guess I base on if it MIGHT sell

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  8. I think that it's in the gut. Instinct is usually right, and if you feel it, go for it. If not, let it be buried.

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  9. I'm working on that right now. I have one I was about to shelve until an agent gave me a detailed no. She got me thinking. I'm going to let it simmer and stew while I finish another novella, then I'll get that red pen out.

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  10. Oh boy. I have 3 manuscripts... the first one is my baby, and I'll revise that as many times as I need to get it right. The one I'm working on now will be what I query first. The one in the middle? I don't know... I might have to shelve that :/ but we'll see...

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  11. Go for it! There is a reason you keep taking it out of the drawer :)

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