by Liz Flaherty
In this month's RWR, Adrienne deWolfe wrote an article called "Beware the Manuscript Under the Bed." Now, if you're one of those whose first, second, or third manuscripts were published right out of the gate, or if you're an indie whose confidence allowed you to publish them yourselves, neither that article or this post is about you. It's about those of us whose trial runs are down there with the Christmas centerpiece, a sock that went rogue, and a whole flock of dust bunnies.
Adrienne suggests, rightly, that sometimes just letting those stories go is the right thing to do. Your voice changes, your skill level raises, trends are...trends. I couldn't find a single thing in the article to disagree with.
One thing she didn't address, however (and apologies if she did and I missed it), is that even in the very earliest of those books under the bed there are characters who are so well-crafted they belong in a book. There are plot points you'd give your eyeteeth to think of today. There are scenes your heart wrote that still bring you to tears or make you laugh out loud. There is that hero with a crooked front tooth and a bit of Irish lilt in his voice who needs his story, even if the first one you gave him is wrong.
After those initial 83 days, it took 10 years to sell the book. It went through two agents and more editors than I even knew existed.
I put it under the bed. I took it out. Put it back.
But if it had taken 10 years more, I'd still be taking it out and trying. Because I love it that much.
And there's the crux--God, I love that word--of this post. We are professionals here. We have learned the hard and painful way that what we do is a Business. We have to promote, promote, promote. We have to write, write, write. We have to stay informed about indie, trad, and hybrid.
But at the end of the day, the books we write need to own pieces of our hearts. If they don't, or if we're just writing by rote to get our word count in or because we want to publish six books this year, we're cheating both our readers and ourselves.
And maybe we need to go back to those manuscripts under the bed, the ones we kept because we loved them, and make use of the parts of them that still shine. We may have written them before writing became so much a Business, before we worried more about word count than did we laugh or cry when we wrote them. The parts that came from our writers' hearts. They all have them.
Thanks for listening. Have a great week.