Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mostly a Re-post: Giving up the ghost; When to trunk your manuscript

Sorry for the re-post, but I've been really busy with revisions for Evangeline. It's been a long road, kind of gravelly and washed out in some areas with a slew of bumps, but after months of hard work, the ride is smoother than ever. I've been working on this manuscript since November of 2008 (a NaNoWriMo attempt), and though I had a pretty good submission request rate when I started querying it last spring, it didn't take long to see that the writing just wasn't good enough...

Originally posted July 7th, 2009

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with my work in progress [Strings], while querying a finished novel [Evangeline] 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 vicious 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.

Aww, it's okay past-me. Here we are a year later, and things are looking better. You finished that WiP and learned a lot about character development and pov. And you DID apply what you learned to Evangeline. And you did enlist a small army of beta readers to help figure out where you were going wrong. And now future-you—meaning yours truly, ME—is busy with this second round of revisions to resubmit to Dreamy McAgent in the hopes that she'll like it enough to want to represent us. So you see, it all worked out for the best.

All it took was a little practice, hard work, and TIME. So if anyone else out there is thinking about trunking a story you love, maybe you just need to put it aside for a while and work on something else.

Your future-you will thank you. ;)


Krispy said...

I'm glad things worked out and are looking up for you. I hate that feeling of uncertainty and not knowing what to do. GOOD LUCK with your revisions! I'll have my fingers crossed for you. :)

Abby Annis said...

I'm so glad you stuck with Evangeline. It really is one of my favorites. And all the girls are going to go crazy for Jude. We need an emoticon that bats its eyelashes or something else swoony. :)

Looking back, I think it was that rejection you got a year ago (Has it been that long already?!) that helped me realize the emotional/character experience was lacking in my story too, even though it was your rejection. And that eventually factored into my decision to rewrite. So, thanks. Glad I could take your rejection and make it all about me. ;)

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, that's great Tere. (And, ha ha... to Abby!)

Tere Kirkland said...

Thanks, Krispy, Abby, Corey! I appreciate it. Abby, lol, you probably learned more than I did from that rejection. I had to write a whole new story to figure out where I was going wrong character development and narrative-wise.

But of course you did! You're way smarter than me. ;)

Abby Annis said...

Hahahaha! Whatever! You know, kissing up isn't going to make me any nicer when I critique. ;)

Elana Johnson said...

I love this post. Like, LOVE IT. I'm wondering if I can borrow it and use it on the QT blog... Will you email me about it??

Tere Kirkland said...

Woot! ;)

Abby Annis said...

I second that woot! :)

T. Anne said...

It's always best to stick it through, although I've had my fair share of clunker that are tucked safely in the trunk!

Lynda Young said...

Time and perseverence are two big things for writers. The more we write, the more we learn.

W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

reberto.alberto said...

Hi there!

Shortstorybook.net is organizing a short story writing contest.

We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

“Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check - http://bit.ly/short-story-contest-2010

Happy writing!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post, Tere! I'm not surprised by Elana's request - we can ALL benefit from this one. :-)

Lola Sharp said...

Just keep swimming. :)

Great (re)post. Good luck with revisions. (I'm right there with you)