At what point do you file away a MS?

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At what point do you file away a MS?

Post by klbritt » October 18th, 2012, 8:02 pm

Just curious at what point do you (personally) file away a manuscript? Do you ever? I'm not at that point, but was wondering how you know. Once you've filed it away, do you ever return to it? If you have, do you look through it and think - Oh man, this totally needs to be rewritten or, man this sucks! Hahaha

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Re: At what point do you file away a MS?

Post by Sanderling » October 18th, 2012, 9:42 pm

I think most people who've been writing long enough have at least one or two stories that get trunked/drawered/shelved/filed away. I think the point at which that decision is made probably differs for different people and different circumstances and even different manuscripts.

I've got three drawered novels. My first one I realized was pretty cliched and needed a LOT of work almost right away after finishing it, and I'd already got an idea for and moved on to my next novel so I didn't hesitate about putting it aside. The second one I did do a round of edits and got one person's feedback on it... but it clearly also needed a LOT of work and I just wasn't in love with the idea enough to bother doing what it needed. And by then I'd already got an idea for and moved on to my next novel. :)

Novel three was a bit different. I learned from the mistakes of one and two and had got a lot better with the first draft such that it didn't need as much work, and I loved the story so much more than I had my first two, too. So I took the time to clean it up as best I could and started querying it. I did actually get requests from a few agents, but the general response I got was that the story was well-written but didn't feel unique enough to stand out in the crowded YA marketplace. After 65 queries and no interest I decided to shelve it, too. Now that I have a bit of distance I do think the agents were right about the uniqueness. And besides... I'd already got an idea for and moved on to my next novel. ;)

I'm currently querying novel number five and drafting number six and I look back on one and two and kinda cringe a bit at how rough they were, both from a wordsmithery and a plotting/pacing standpoint. I'm actually really glad I moved on - they served their purpose as learning tools and I don't regret for a moment having written them, but I won't be revisiting them.
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Re: At what point do you file away a MS?

Post by Shipple » October 20th, 2012, 2:02 pm

There's no perfect way to know when to file something away because there's always potential there. I think I've got four manuscripts filed away. The first one I thought was pretty good but now looking back on it, not so much.

I think the first one's the hardest to know when to put away because you aren't really positive you can write another and you don't yet realize what you're capable of.

My fourth was one of my best yet, but after putting out a few query letters, I started to realize that the story wasn't all that different from the books already out there. That was after a few drafts and a few rejections. That was a bit hard to realize, but then I started on another book and got excited about it, and now I'm happy I did it. But, no, I don't think I'd go back and try to re-work any of my older stuff. They were great for learning, and they helped me show myself I could do it, but I don't' think they were good enough to try to re-work and put back out there.
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Re: At what point do you file away a MS?

Post by Louise Curtis » October 22nd, 2012, 4:42 pm

I think I'm an expert on "retiring" (as I call it) full-length MSs. It boils down to two questions for me - Does this book need rewriting from scratch (ie it has a fatal flaw, such as a deux ex machina ending or an important character who behaves in a manner that is clearly just poor writing)? Alternatively, Have I run out of plausible markets in Australia (I'm happy to publish overseas, and have subbed books to America and the UK with some success, but ultimately publishing in my own country is more likely and easier for promotion)?

I've notched up about eighty rejections for novels alone (more for short stories), one of which took almost four years to get back to me.

I've written thirteen books and had about twenty-five full-MS requests, five MS recommendations from professional assessors (for five different books), and have won or placed in five novel-related contests - again, with five different books (the best had a $10,000 first prize and publication, with nothing for runners-up, and I came either second or third but did not get an offer of publication). I know at least one book went to an acquisitions meeting at a large publisher before it was rejected (sadly, that book is now retired too). Another was accepted for publication as an audio book (for the then Royal Blind Society) but never produced.

Out of my thirteen books, ten are retired.
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Re: At what point do you file away a MS?

Post by wilderness » October 23rd, 2012, 1:59 pm

Louise Curtis wrote: one of which took almost four years to get back to me.
Whoa. My record was 11 months for a form rejection on a query.

My first novel has been drawered. For me, it's obvious. I find the novel just embarrassing to think about. Strangely enough, it got tons of requests but I think the concept was more amusing than the execution. I think I could fix it up if I tried but I have no interest in doing so. It was a YA romance and I've decided I prefer writing novels that are 9 parts adventure, 1 part romance.

I'm about a gazillion times more excited about my current novel, though I haven't had much luck querying it yet. I've rewritten my query so I hope batch two will go better.

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