Monday, July 6, 2009

Giving up the ghost; When to trunk your manuscript

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with my work in progress, while querying a finished novel that is as polished as I can make it. But today I received a rejection on the full (a full request from the start, so far I have had no partial requests turn into fulls for this project) that really made me think.

The agent mentioned they liked the concept and the setting, but I had problems with narrative, that the agent wanted "more" from the mc's experience. I believe the agent's comments to be genuine, and not something I'm reading into too much. The concern about narrative I had received pretty uniformly from most agents, and something I kept in mind during the latest stage of revisions. So it looks like I didn't do as well on the revisions as I had thought.

Which begs the question: barring the spontaneous propagation of a literary professional who is willing to do a line by line of my work to tell me where the problem narrative is, how do I know what needs to be changed? How do I know if I can even change the book enough to make it saleable? Will more betas help at this point, or should I put all my writing energies into my wip, where I can apply what I learned trying to write the last one?

I have a good-sized list of agents I can still query, and I could change little things, but I'd need an objective reader, or hell, a committee at this point, to help me decide where to start with yet another stage of revisions. I've read it so many times, the words just start to run together at this point.

Keep writing! the agent in question says. Does that mean I should keep writing the same story, or move on to another? It's enough to make me pull out my hair. I'm getting so deep into the main character of the wip, a place I never really got to with the mc of the novel being queried, that it would be difficult for me to switch gears right now. It's hard for me to go backward. Maybe I am a better writer now than I was, but am I a better storyteller? Can I craft a whole story that makes sense from start to finish that immerses the reader in a living breathing character's life and problems? If I can't do this, what right do I have to call myself a writer?

So for now I'm going to play it cool, wait on another full and a partial request, and decide later. Maybe there's an agent out there who will like the story enough to give me the critical feedback I need to whip the story into shape. Or maybe I'll go nuts with my wip and finish it in six weeks (ha!) and have another story to foist other concerns on. And the viscious cycle will start all over again.

How to decide without losing my sanity? Should I tackle two stories, revisions and draft writing, at the same time? Or put all my eggs in a brand new basket?

I wish I knew.


Rebecca Knight said...

On a positive note, that is extremely cool that your novel is good enough to warrant a personalized rejection :). That is a great sign!

I will always recommend beta readers. I've learned so much from sending my novel out when I thought it was "done," only to have my fabulous betas tell me yeah... not so much. They are all godsends.

However, if you're absolutely sick of it, you might want to let it stew for a few weeks while you work on your new WIP. It's always better to let something sit, then polish it again, then send it out before it's 100% ready. Don't waste your shot with agents before you're sure it's as good as it gets.

Good luck!

Tess said...

Great questions and, truthfully, not a bad spot to be in. You've got lots of options and opportunities for success here. Just go with your gut.

shield maiden said...

I wouldn't give up on your finished novel.

We've all been there. Writers go through a burnout period where they revise a piece so much, become so saturated with the story, that it is difficult to see the next step in improvements. Let it sit for awhile. It is amazing what is discovered/"seen" after a piece is kept on the back burner for a little bit.

Work on your WIP! Your idea is fresh and you got the ball rolling. Don't drop it. Maybe this WIP will be better than your finished novel and perhaps it will get published before it. That's ok. We as writers become better with practice and experience, especially when there is an excellent support group behind us.

If you wanted objective readers for your finished novel, I highly recommend Critique Circle. I don't know if you've ever been on their site but you should check it out. I really find the readers and the critique system to be thorough and beneficial.

Also, I'm sure there are a lot of aspiring writers here who would be more than willing to help out as beta readers. While I'm pretty new to reading your blog, I would be more than helpful to give advice on narration :).

Abby said...

"Maybe there's an agent out there who will like the story enough to give me the critical feedback I need to whip the story into shape."

Or maybe there's an agent out there who will like your story enough that they don't think it needs to be whipped into shape. :)

Don't give up! I love your story.

Lady Glamis said...

I would keep querying it and see what other feedback you get. Some agents will love the idea so much they'll work with you on any other problems the MS might have. Keep writing on other work and learning as much as you can. And read read read!

It sounds like you have major potential if you're getting full and partial requests. I know that sometimes that doesn't mean much, but I haven't reached that point yet, so good job! And the agent is right. Just keep writing. Go with your gut. And don't forget to OWN your work. Confidence is KEY.

TereLiz said...

Thanks for the advice, y'all, and the offer to beta, shield maiden. I think I'll wait to hear back about the requests out now, and let the finished ms chill a bit while I work on the new story. Maybe a little time away from each other will do us both good. Right now I'm spitting out a first draft as fast as I can for my untitled wip, trying not to even edit as I go, which is hard for me.

Confidence. Yes, I do feel like I've lost a little bit of the confidence I used to have in my finished ms. I'm going through the "I'm not good enough" routine with that story right now, so I need to buck up and keep at it.

Thanks again!