Monday, November 7

The Book Under the Bed

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.

I wrote the first draft of One More Summer in 83 days because I couldn't put my virtual pen down. I got up at 3:00 AM to write for an hour before I had to go to work. I tried to write the story any way but the way it ended up--because there's a plot point in it that even today I would change if I could--but it would never work. I always write character-driven, but it was ridiculous in that book--Grace and Dillon and Promise wouldn't let me go.

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.




18 comments:

  1. I have two 150,000+ stories (two-thirds of a trilogy) under my bed. It's a world I crafted and wrote when I had no idea what I was doing. I'm keeping it in my back pocket to someday dust off and completely rewrite from word one. As you say, they are characters I love. 😄

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    1. They become a part of you and they deserve their voice, don't they?

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  2. I'm at the point where the business end has me so soured that writing is getting harder and harder to do. Perhaps I need to revisit some of those books under the bed to renew my writer's spirit and remind me of why I started writing in the first place. Thanks, Liz!

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    1. I know what you mean, Cheryl, and what a great way to put it--"writer's spirit." We definitely lose touch with it sometimes. I know you can get it back. See you Friday!

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  3. I still love the characters in my first book...and I still think about bringing out their story at some point, but...that story doesn't work for a myriad of reasons. Maybe, as you suggested, I'll just bring out the characters and see what happens from there.

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    1. I don't HAVE mine anymore--my 1st three mss. went by way of corrupted floppies back in the 90s--but I wish I did for that very reason. Sometimes there is a secondary character who just doesn't let go!

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  4. I lost a couple of stories to corrupted floppies, too, Liz--and I hated it. But the under-the-bed stuff is from the old typewriter and legal pad days...maybe I need to take a look...hmmmm... Cheryl makes a great point about the business end deflating our writer spirits--I can so identify! Retreat should renew us all, right?

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    1. I have the first two books of a mystery series gathering digital dust from ten years ago. I know my skills have improved since then; maybe it's time to trot them out for refurbishing.

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    2. It won't hurt to look them over. Good luck with them, Helen.

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  5. I'm so glad you did not give up on "One More Summer" it is one of my favorite books! I have the first book in a romantic trilogy almost done and books two and three outlined. All are under my bed right now (really they are gathering dust in the cloud) because I have had a really difficult year. Writing has gone by the wayside for now. I hope to bring them out soon.

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    1. Sometimes real life does get in the way, doesn't it? See you this weekend, right?

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  6. I'm currently trying to decide whether a book that I actually published with a small publishing company and then took the rights back to is worth dusting off and reworking. Like you said, I love the characters, but I think the plot needs a lot of work. You're making me believe it could be worthwhile!

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  7. I have some of those books under the bed. I have one I'm working on now that I think should be under the bed.

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    1. Thanks, Marleen. I think I'm at that particular point, too!

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  8. Great article! My first was a western romance. I think I had to find my genre as well.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I am ending in the same genre I started in, but had a few walkabouts in the middle. :-)

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