Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knowing when to let go

Thinking about Thursday

Everyone shelves their first novel, right? That is what I hear from most of writer friends. "Oh, my first novel? It's under my bed (in a file cabinet, locked in my mother's attic, a pile of ashes that were washed down the kitchen sink). Never to see the light of day."
That is what I am thinking about today. The manuscript I have been working on (and working on and working on) is far from my first novel. I have been writing most of my life, so I have completed several others. You want to talk about "never meant to see the light of day"? These would make your heart ache and not in a good way. But, they were all steps in the process.

I suppose this one is, too. I have never put so much work into a manuscript before. I have never had such great beta readers and critique partners before. (Shout out to the terrific Teri Anne Stanley and my NTRWA chaptermate, Genevieve Wilson.) Of course, I have never been this educated about the publishing process before.

Despite all of the crits, all the revisions, all the heart, soul and tears. I think it is time to put this one the shelf. Sadly, not the one in the bookstore I have dreamed of seeing it grace.

I had high hopes of querying it this summer, but it's not ready. I know that and right now, I am too close to it to get it any closer to being ready. We need a break. Some time apart. Maybe I will come back with fresh eyes and all the parts I can't seem to work out will magically fall into place.

So, what do you think? Where is your first novel? How do you know when it is time to just let it go?


Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I'm so sorry to hear that, Dawn. It's a difficult decision to make, I know. I have a long backlog of books that never made it past their fifth chapter.

That said, my first completed novel of an acceptable length is probably the one I have coming out next year. Before that there was a fantasy novel which I was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but I can't even remember how long it was when I got the first one done. It was short enough that I considered only making it two books, or even just one.

Paula said...

My first novel will not be revisited. But it was a wonderful learning experience, and it did earn me my first revise and resubmit request, so it keeps a soft spot in my heart for that.

I sold my fourth full manuscript. Of course, I sold it a decade after I wrote it, after several rejections and about 8 years of ignoring it completely before I pulled it back out and viewed it with more experienced eyes and the benefit of distance.

So do it. Put it away for a while. Write two or three or five new manuscripts. Then go back to the shelved book and see if you know how to fix it then.

Loree Huebner said...

My first novel was totally revised in 2010 while I was nursing a broken wrist and a hand surgery. I hadn't looked at it since 2004. It was written in 2001-2003. It's actually a series. After working on it and the rejections, heart and soul...bla bla bla...I put it aside then and wrote another novel in 2005 and another in 2007. This past spring, I dug out the 2005 novel. That is the book I am working on right now. I believe it may be a "break in" novel, so I'm giving it my all and going to query it soon.

I'm not putting that first novel on the shelf yet. If I can get this 2005 one published, the first novel/series might be given a better chance. For now, it's complete and ready to roll.

Give it some time...things can be seen more clearly after some distance...even after years apart.

Dawn Alexander said...

Thank you for all the support. I have written a few others since this one, but I haven't been as focused on the revisions for the others as I should be.

It is a relief to hear y'all say you walked away from your novel and were able to come back to it with fresh eyes. I sincerely hope that is what I can do.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Having read the manuscript of which you lament, I have to say: It's not ready for the "delete" button, my dear. It needs to marinate, perhaps, and I suspect that if you go work on something else for a while, you'll be able to come back and juice it up and toss it out there and be happy with it.
Maybe it just needs more Macarena! Or nekkid parts.

Dawn Alexander said...

Thanks, Teri. You are right. You can never have too much Macarena or nekkid parts. Especially in the same chapter! :)

Genevieve Wilson said...

I agree with Teri about your novel. You've got great characters and an original premise. More nekkid parts would be cool. :)

My first novel is shelved, too. I love it too much to give up hope for it, but now that I'm on my second (it takes me foreva to write a novel), I can see where I messed up on the first.