October 17, 2012

Writing Club Wednesdays: In Loving Memory of Trunked Manuscripts

They say you always remember your first. And it's so, so true. I certainly remember mine. She was about 5'10", with long, curly red hair and a chip on her shoulder big enough to collapse her stress-disorder-riddled body. Of course, she was the cure to the school player's womanizing ways, and after lots of drama, they eventually found their happily ever after.

Now they live in my trunk.

Don't worry - they were never meant to live anywhere else. Her likeability was always questionable, and none of us were looking for anything serious. No, that came a couple of years later, when I decided to write a spin-off series that took place two years later in college. This one! I thought. This will be the key!

Well, I've blogged ad nauseum as to how incredibly naive it was to try to get a college-set book published ever, let alone in 2009, so I won't rehash that too thoroughly, but needless to say, after fewer than ten queries, this one joined its old friends in the trunk too. After all, you can't ask people to sell to a market they don't believe exists.

OK fine, I could handle trunking those. I hadn't even thought of publishing them when I'd first written them anyway. They were fun, a way to live vicariously through other characters with lives drastically different from my own, which was exactly why I started writing in the first place. No biggie! I'd tried that whole query thing and it wasn't for me, so I'd go back to writing for fun and that would be that.

I know, I know, I'm laughing at me too, but really I think I would have if I hadn't gone to an excellent class called "Writing for T(w)eens," taught by the fabulous Melissa Jensen (buy her books! I love them!) and gotten inspired to write my very first standalone. You know how when you first really, truly fall in love, you realize everything else was just like or lust or obsession but it wasn't real, true love?

That's how I felt about all my old manuscripts when compared to this one. I loved this one. I loved its characters, its dialogue, its roundabout love story, its twist ending, its relationships.... It was my heart in a manuscript. It was me telling a story. You could pick out my voice in a million different ways and shapes and lines. And most of all, it still contains my favorite line I've ever written that doesn't contain the phrase "lobotomized hooker."

Dear reader, this manuscript made me do things I never thought I'd do. I shared it with friends. A lot of friends. And I queried, oh how I queried. First with a bad query. Then with a whipped-into-shape-by-Absolute-Write (which is the most brutal of all writing processes, as far as I'm concerned) query. I encountered some incredibly nice and wonderful agents and form reject agents and some no-response-is-no agents. I sent off full manuscript after full manuscript and thought each time Yes this is totally it! Spoiler alert: It was not it.

When I finally stepped back and looked at the personalized agent responses to full requests, I started to understand that the pacing was a huge problem I didn't know how to fix. Then as I started to read more and more contemporary standalones (I'd been mostly a series reader at that point), I realized that I was coming across book after book with similar plots/subplots. (My low point was coming across an Elizabeth Scott book whose back cover copy could've basically been ripped off the book and pasted onto mine.) After over a year of querying, my very first (paper) love hit the trunk.

Trunking that manuscript hurt like hell, and it turned me off writing completely, even as a new idea was brewing in my brain, demanding that I write quick notes on it at random times. Still, even as the Shiny New Idea crystallized, I couldn't find the kick in the butt that I needed to get me over my old manuscript and under another one. Then I learned about NaNoWriMo, decided I was going to do it, and never looked back. (Well, I looked back once, because an agent's wishlist was basically screaming "Pull out that manuscript and send it to me!" But just once!)

That new NaNo manuscript got me my agent, and with any luck, I won't be trunking any more manuscripts. But I'll never forget the ones I did, and I'll probably never stop loving them, flaws and all.

How many manuscripts have you trunked, and do they hold a special place in your heart? Or are you glad they're officially buried out of sight? What issues made you realize they were destined for the shelf?

Photo courtesy of fab Misfit Jenny Kaszorowski


Suzi said...

I have many temporarily trunked. I went on a writing spree when I first started. But haven't had time to go back. Still don't. But now that I know so much more, when I get that time, if I stop writing other stuff, I will go back to them and take another look to see if they are worth it.

Darci Cole said...

I've only ever completed one MS, and I didn't even bother querying it bc it was pretty horribly structured. I'm now rewriting it completely, and I really want to finish bc I have a lot of other ideas on the back burner... Needless to say, I've yet to shelve something, but I know it'll be hard if I have to. I'm just a perfectionist, and the more I learn, the better I want this ms to be, so I keep working on it.

Marieke said...

My LOVING ADELINE is quite happy in a trunk, and I'm quite happy for it to stay there. Don't get me wrong--I still LOVE that story despite its many flaws, and I don't think any trunk is closed forever. But in this shape it's just fine where it is. Besides, writing it taught me an awful lot, like every story I ever wrote, and that's what I'll take with me to future manuscripts :)

rlynn-solomon said...

I trunked my first, which was also actually set in college, too! I had a couple rejected fulls, but I mostly had no idea how to market it. So I finally had to put it away and start something fresh, a YA that I'm a lot happier with! I may pull it out again one day and revise it as a YA, but it was HARD putting aside a year and a half of work.

Seabrooke said...

I've trunked three so far - in a similar progression to yours. The first was just bad, the second required far more work than I wanted to do for my level of interest in the story, and the third one I queried relatively widely and sent out a few fulls before retiring because the general consensus from those rejections was the story felt too familiar and wouldn't stand out enough in the marketplace. That last one was kinda hard to shelve; like you, I really loved it. I've also got a fourth I can't decide whether to revise or not, so it's been sitting on the backburner for a year but not officially trunked yet. Just starting to query a new one - I'm hoping fifth time's a charm. :)

Tristina said...

I trunked my first. It was the story that was brewing in my brain for about seven years so it was HARD to trunk that one. But I realized the writing needed work and I was trying to pack too much into one book.

Eventually I'll go back to it and rewrite it...maybe. But that manuscript taught me a lot and the experiences I went through with it taught me even more about writing and this business.

Anonymous said...

I've trunked one. It was a crazy blend of alt-history and sci-fi for a YA audience set during the last silver rush. I still might revisit it later; the problems were much more on the technical end than the plot itself. I'm hoping that, with my current MS, my skills have improved considerably.

Sarah J. said...

I have one on its way to the trunk, being pushed there by "shiny new manuscript." The crazy thing is that I have a revise&resubmit for the almost-trunked one, and I'm still thinking of trunking it. I had to evaluate my goals as a writer, and decided that first manuscript might not be the direction I want to go.

Liz Parker said...

This is such a helpful post. I've trunked one. I'm getting ready to query number two and hope it won't end up in the trunk--I do love it. The first one probably won't ever see the light of day without a full rewrite. :)

Ashley Turcotte said...

I've trunked three. The first two were two parts of a trilogy that I spent seven years working on. Then I woke up one day and realized that, even after all that work, they just weren't good enough. Some day, I might go back and work on them again. But I'd have to change about half the plot, I'd want to move them from adult to YA fantasy, and I'd probably switch from third to first person. So I'd basically have to start all over again. And from where I'm sitting right now, that feels like going backwards. I want to keep going forward until I (finally) get where I want to go.

The third book gathering dust in the trunk is the only paranormal I've ever written (and the only one I'm likely ever to write). I went through a bit of a vampire phase, but my heart has always and will always be in fantasy. And after it came to my attention that vampires are dead (pun not intended), I moved on after fewer than 20 queries.

Hoping that book number four is the one, but only time will tell on that. Still waiting to hear back from a few people. I'm already head over heels in love with book number five, though, so most of my focus has moved to that at this point. Rejections sting a little less when I'm already working on my next book, and am certain it's the best thing I've ever written. :)

Jamie Krakover said...

My first ever manuscript is in the trunk. I never finished it because I didn't know where I was going with it. It also broke just about every bad writing stereotype there is. I really love the concept but I think my emotions were too entangled in it, so I put it aside. Maybe one day I will revisit is but it will need a complete overhaul!

erica m. chapman said...

Well, as you know, I've trunked one and I'm glad I did. I really do love it and it was the MS that helped me find my voice. But, it's not ready for prime time. I have a couple half finished trunked MS's that I may whip out some time and finish ;o)

Great post!! By the way, having read those trunked MS's, they are totally ready for primetime. And I suspect they could be again <3

callmebecks said...

I have a rather terrible epic fantasy I wrote late high school/early college that's in the trunk that will probably never clamber it's way back out. But beyond that one...let's just say I'm not very good at trunking them. Ask me to clean out a closet of personal items, and I will ruthlessly box up or toss the whole lot, but ask me to walk away from a beloved manuscript and I crumble. It's not pretty. Which is why I'm still revising one WIP after years of fussing with it.

It's a problem. I might need an intervention.

Steph Sessa said...

Still writing my first MS, so I haven't trucked any (yet). BUT Dahlia, I also took Melissa Jensen's Writing for T(w)eens class!! She taught me so much and really is super awesome.

Gina said...

I loved the first ms I wrote and queried, but looking back on it, I know I'd need to do some serious revisions if I ever plan to let it see the light of day again. And, of course, the market would suddenly need to warm to stories that are both paranormal AND about college students. Right now, that's basically the same as two strikes against me.

Maybe NaNo is what I need for ms #4. She's being a little bitch right now :)

Alex Brown said...

My first MS will forever be trunked after I was silly enough to try to query it. I LOVE my story, and it was a very important proving ground to myself (because after that I knew that I *could* write a book, and *could* do it again).

BUT, my poor little first MS tried to re-tell several fairy tales in a new way (sort of like a mix of Once Upon a Time and what Marissa Meyer's doing with her "Lunar Chronicles" book). So, really, by the time I finished writing my idea wasn't that awesome anymore.

What WAS awesome is that experience got me more involved with the online writing world (like your awesome site!)!!! I'll always love my trunked MS for that :) And for giving me the push to be even better the next time around!

Amanda Olivieri said...

I trunked my first MS. It was Paranormal, had sloppy writing, flat characters. It needed more work than I was willing to put into it. I might steal some parts of it for later projects, but I don't think I'd go back to rewrite it. I'm not in love with the story anymore, and it's happy being trunked. :)

Adrianne Russell said...

I have two stories in the trunk right now. No telling if I'll go back to them. So far they haven't called to me!

Margo Kelly said...

Just found this blog! LOVE it. I'm a new fan and a new follower! :)

Post a Comment

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Blogger Templates