When to move on...

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When to move on...

Postby thrintone » 12 Jan 2011, 18:59

So I finished my first novel over a year ago and since then I've been working on a few other things as well as revising the completed novel. I finally worked up the nerve to let my brother read my latest draft. He gave me a ton of useful info, but then kind of said, "At some point you have to realize this was your first try. It was good, but not good enough. Don't waste the rest of your life trying to make this be the one...move on and write something else."


I have moved on. I am working on another novel, but for some reason I am in love with my first book. I love the story, the characters, and mostly my heroine. So even though I am aware it will never be published I have this irrational desire to perfect it. However, I only have so much time to write and I don't want to "waste" it working on something that will never be good enough. Then on the other hand, who says I will ever create something good enough....

Haha...what to do??
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Re: When to move on...

Postby HillaryJ » 12 Jan 2011, 19:42

I'm going to assume that you began writing out of love for the craft rather than out of some overwhelming desire to be published at all costs. You should love your trunk manuscripts the same way you love that blanket your grandmother made you, or that comfort food your dad taught you to make that basically just consists of throwing all your leftovers into a pot and then adding hot sauce.

Not everything you write is going to be publishable or, if it is, that doesn't mean that the market will want it right now. That doesn't mean it's unworthy. With each character you build and each scene you complete, you're growing as a writer. Getting better. You can go back and tinker with that story until you're old and grey, and it's old and yellow. Let it be your favorite project when you can steal a moment, a reminder of where you came from, and an incentive to keep growing as a writer.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Holly » 12 Jan 2011, 20:28

I agree with everything Hillary says, but...

I rewrote my novel three times. The first version was probably awful, but now everything clicks, the plot, the characters, the writing. I'm about to query it with confidence.

The key is how much the story haunts you. If you're really, really, really in love with it, and you just have to tell it no matter what, then rewrite it.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby cheekychook » 12 Jan 2011, 21:25

Has anyone besides your brother read your book? If not, I'd start by getting some more readers. It's impossible to tell from one person's opinion, no matter who the one person is. Seriously. If you have several people read your book and they all say the same thing then you might want to think about either a major overhaul or trunking it altogether (although you, as the writer, always have the last word, so to speak---if you want to keep tweaking it you can, as many times as you want). It's great that you're working on something else too, but if your first book is haunting you don't give up on it so fast. My first novel is in its rightful place, in a box under my bed...but the novel I'm currently querying is not one I'd let be willing to box without exhausting every available option. Trust your judgment, be open to suggestions, and don't give up.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby stephmcgee » 12 Jan 2011, 21:33

This is something I'm struggling with at the present. My first novel that I ever started (which ended up being my second) is currently boxed away. But I re-read the novel over Christmas and fell in love with the characters and story again. Want to find a way to save it, but really not sure how. Trying to figure out if it should remain boxed away or if I should spend the time on it when I have other ideas that are equally as intriguing. Unlike the OP, though, I've never had anyone beta this book.

I definitely agree with going with your gut. It's just fine-tuning that gut to become a good receptor for that intuition.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Sommer Leigh » 12 Jan 2011, 21:34

I agree with everything everyone has said so far. On one hand, it is alright to move on. On the other, if you feel like there is something worth saving, then do it. My first draft of my first finished book was awful. Awful, awful, awful. I wish I hadn't shown it to anyone. It was the first time I'd finished from beginning to end and the first time I'd spent a lot of time trying to hone my craft while writing it. It was still terrible. But I didn't want to give up on it either, so I analyzed it, pulled out all the stuff I thought worked well, and chose to rewrite it. The rewrite was very, very different, but it had a lot of the same character, themes, and world details. Some of the conflicts were the same, but many were new. The plot was shredded and redone. My second draft, which I refer to as a first draft because the two books are so different they might as well be two different WIPs, is 110% better than my first try, but still not quite there. The second draft was better, and now that I'm rewriting a middle section for the third draft, I'm pretty sure I'll be ready for public viewing and criticism when it is done. And I'm so glad I didn't shelve it like I originally planned.

So my advice to you is: Go with your gut, but check in with your heart.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Claudie » 12 Jan 2011, 21:40

I'm no expert on the art of moving on from novels, but my gut instinct tells me that as long as something haunts you, you should stay with it. There might still be major flaws with your story, but if you love love love it, then I believe you will find a way to make it better. Sure, you might need to let it sit, work on something else, get better as a writer and come back to revisit it, but if this story doesn't want to let go off you... why quit completely?

One thing, however: sometimes the reason a story isn't working is because we are clinging to the initial idea behind it, rather than to let it mature in a complex story. It happened to me. TWICE. Don't be afraid to examine even some of the core ideas, and ask yourself if the story might not be better without. It could make all the difference.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Margo » 12 Jan 2011, 22:45

I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said here. I just have a few more thoughts.

The fact that one person didn't like it means nothing. That could mean it's in need of another draft or that the idea is so flawed it would never work no matter how many drafts you write. As another post mentioned, it might be a good idea to have someone else read it. I don't recommend relatives. A gentle, patient industry pro would be perfect, and you might be able to get that at a conference. Of course, we're talking an agent or editor willing to read 3-50 pages, depending on the conference, not the whole book. A good editor can give you a year's worth of advise after reading 5-10 pages, though. The next best thing would be another writer, someone who has been studying the craft for awhile, but you would need to brace yourself for things you might not want to hear. You should also be careful to try to find someone who can give you feedback in a considerate and constructive way that will make you eager to get back to work rather than depress you so badly you never want to write again.

Also, there's nothing that takes a person's mind off love faster than a new love. I've fallen in love with every book I've ever written. They have all been extremely valuable steps in my process. Almost all of them are gone. After awhile, they are evicted from the trunk. And I'm not sorry they're gone. I appreciate them for what they were, not for what I wanted them to be. That's what the next manuscript is for.

And finally, nothing says you can't rewrite it a few years from now. I suggest...I really mean this...putting the book away for at least several months while you work on the next project. A year would be even better. The more you stare at it, trying to figure out what's wrong, the more perspective you will lose. You will get to a point when you can't tell what's great and what's crap. The impact of the scenes will feel skewed or flat. Like trying to chew gum after the flavor is gone. Did you know that if you chew gum long enough it turns to liquid - revolting flavorless liquid - in your mouth. Yes, I tried it once in high school. Anyway, same principle. Put it away and give yourself time to forget the best turns of phrase, that quirky line from that one scene, that fabulous description of that place. Forget it all so you can experience it again later with new, more experienced eyes.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Sommer Leigh » 13 Jan 2011, 06:42

Margo wrote:
You will get to a point when you can't tell what's great and what's crap. The impact of the scenes will feel skewed or flat. Like trying to chew gum after the flavor is gone. Did you know that if you chew gum long enough it turns to liquid - revolting flavorless liquid - in your mouth. Yes, I tried it once in high school. Anyway, same principle. Put it away and give yourself time to forget the best turns of phrase, that quirky line from that one scene, that fabulous description of that place. Forget it all so you can experience it again later with new, more experienced eyes.


Kind of off subject, but I'm so grossed out by your gum analogy! I may never touch gum again.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Watcher55 » 13 Jan 2011, 07:07

Sommer Leigh wrote:
Margo wrote:
You will get to a point when you can't tell what's great and what's crap. The impact of the scenes will feel skewed or flat. Like trying to chew gum after the flavor is gone. Did you know that if you chew gum long enough it turns to liquid - revolting flavorless liquid - in your mouth. Yes, I tried it once in high school. Anyway, same principle. Put it away and give yourself time to forget the best turns of phrase, that quirky line from that one scene, that fabulous description of that place. Forget it all so you can experience it again later with new, more experienced eyes.


Kind of off subject, but I'm so grossed out by your gum analogy! I may never touch gum again.


Even if it comes out of a chicken's rear end?

Seriously though, here are a few questions I would have to ask myself:

Does your brother represent your target audience? Did he specifically identify the fatal flaws? Are the flaws really fatal, or is "surgery" in order?

Here's the big one - Is it really the story you wanted to tell?
This last question I think, goes back to Sommer's suggestion.
I analyzed it, pulled out all the stuff I thought worked well, and chose to rewrite it. The rewrite was very, very different, but it had a lot of the same character, themes, and world details. Some of the conflicts were the same, but many were new. The plot was shredded and redone.


Perhaps this story is a sort of prototype for the one that really wants to be told. Take it apart, let your brain kick it around and rearrange it; then retell (rewrite) it.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Sommer Leigh » 13 Jan 2011, 07:40

Watcher55 wrote:
Does your brother represent your target audience? Did he specifically identify the fatal flaws? Are the flaws really fatal, or is "surgery" in order?



Novel surgery! I like it!
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Re: When to move on...

Postby sierramcconnell » 13 Jan 2011, 17:01

UGH. I'm going through one of those periods of "I hate myself and I should just die and I'll never write another word"...

However, I'm still wanting to go back and perfect that first book I wrote by rewriting it because I loved the characters so much. No, not that Chasing Miracles one. One I did before that. And it was CRAP. Utter crap.

I just don't believe in a book that's so bad that it can't be perfected by the right person, with enough time, enough skill, and enough love.

I'm sorry, your brother, and those other people out there who say there are just books that should never be completed are idiots.

If you really want to make it good and can put the kind of effort into it to do it, do it. Just remember it might take more time to do it, because the more you say a word over, the less meaning it has.

Sorry, this is just one of those spots.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby Fenris » 13 Jan 2011, 18:35

I agree with Margo agreeing with Sommer agreeing with everyone else.

But really, it depends on how you feel. I'm about ready to give up on my current manuscript--note, "manuscript," not "story." There are problems, there are inconsistencies, there is an urge to move on, almost a disgust at the fact that I couldn't see all the problems from the get-go.

But if writing were that easy, would it be worth it? I may end up going back and tweaking, or I may end up rewriting the whole thing, and it may be better for it. Hard work brings results; the easy path leads to stagnation. It's an ugly truth, but who are we to deny it? There's a difference, in my opinion, between storytellers and writers. Storytellers will tell a story for a time, but then once people tire of it or begin to point out flaws he (or she) will decide it's time to move on. Writers, on the other hand, will ignore all warnings, all admonitions that their story won't go anywhere. Writers will take the flaws and reconstruct them into a stronger structure, until the story they so desperately wished to tell is a perfect cathedral that will withstand the harshest storms. Writers will weather the storm, adapting to the times and playing to their strengths and those of their characters until all stand in awe of their radiance.

At least, that's what we aspire to.

I'd listen to whatever helpful feedback your brother had to give (and like others on this thread have suggested, I'd expand your audience a bit as well), but I wouldn't give up just yet. After all, if you truly love your story, who is he to say you can't become stronger together?

Weather the storm, and emerge to find the desert of a struggling manuscript has become a paradise just waiting to be explored. Don't give up hope. It is the lot of a writer to face rejection, but it is also our duty to stand firm in the face of such. And when you have been published, your dreams fulfilled, could you truly look back and say "It was worth it" if the road to glory was short and smooth?
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Re: When to move on...

Postby thrintone » 13 Jan 2011, 21:40

Honestly, I write for the love of writing. I would love to write something publishable, but I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about it.

My brother gave me a lot of constructive critism. He was slightly harsh, but not mean. He pointed out as many positives as negatives...well almost. :) He was my fourth beta, but all were family or friend. The other three all said something along the lines of, "Wow, it was better than I thought it would be...I hate the way it ended." But none of them gave me any sort of critism.

I think I have to put this draft to rest for awhile. I'm going to make notes of all my brothers suggestions and then go back in six months or so.

Thanks for your suggestions.
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Re: When to move on...

Postby dios4vida » 14 Jan 2011, 13:05

I'm in love with my first novel so much that I'm doing a complete rewrite on it as we speak. I wrote another in the meantime, but now I've gone through the first, reread it, taken out all the good stuff, cleared my brain of the rest, and am bringing it back to life with all the skills I've learned since I first wrote it. Will it be good enough this time? I don't know. Am I loving the process? Yes. And that's all that matters.

If you just can't leave it alone, then go ahead and work on it. Rewrite it. Edit it. Do your best. But don't get so obsessed with it that you forsake every other project for the rest of your writing career.
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