We all have one. That manuscript. The one we love with every fiber of our being. The one we wish we could share with the world. The one that frustrates us more than anything else in the universe because we just can’t get it out into the world where we want it.
I have a story like this, a sweeping post-apocalyptic tale with multi-cultural elements and heroes/heroines I love. It has been polished, edited and shined ready for the Big Read. But I can’t seem to get anyone else to even look at more than the first ten action-filled pages. I’ve passed 100 agents/editors now, and all of them have turned it down without ever reading the whole thing.
So I’ve put it aside, as much as I love it, and continued working on other projects. I sold five novels in the last year, divided by genre into three urban fantasies, one romantic suspense and a women’s fiction with romantic elements. I’ve got three more book-length manuscripts, a vampire story, another romantic suspense and a science fiction novel all out under consideration now. I’ve sold a couple of short stories and have published many non-fiction articles, as well as keeping up three websites/blogs.
But my heart keeps coming back to my young Chinese Romeo and Juliet, destined to meet and save each others’ lives in an America devastated by a terrorist attack.
How do you decide when to let go? Do you have to?
I know some writers who cling to one piece of work, editing and carving and adding and practically bleeding the life out of it, trying to make it acceptable. Acceptable to who? I’d ask. Granted, your first draft probably isn’t good enough. Some polish and re-working is necessary to most any piece. But don’t you think that your work should be what you intend it to be, not something cut and bent just to fit some agent’s formula? Especially considering that most agents are overwhelmed with submissions, and your work is likely to be read by some junior bottom-of-the-totem pole person just out of school?
There’s some writing advice floating around out there attributed to William Faulkner, that says writers should “Kill their darlings.” According to author Wendy Palmer, “originally the phrase was ‘murder your darlings’, and it came from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”.
This means, of course, that anything that you find fantastic and perfect and the most wonderful piece ever is probably something you can’t judge objectively.
But this story, the book of your heart, isn’t necessarily your “darling.” If you’re working with an objective critique partner, or better yet, a critique group, that you trust, you can reassure yourself that you love this one with a true heart, not one blinded by infatuation.
So I’ll keep working on other projects, but at the same time, I’ll cherish my special book and keep holding it for the right time. Who knows, with enough other success and the changing nature of the publishing business, perhaps I can follow authors like CJ Lyons and self-publish the story that couldn’t find a home with a big publisher. The future holds many possibilities. What about the book of your heart? Has it found a home? What are your plans for it?
About the author
Alana Lorens has been a published writer for over thirty-five years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at a newspaper in Homestead, Florida. Her novel SECRETS IN THE SAND comes out from The Wild Rose Press in April 2011, and the second book in the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, THE ELF CHILD, (under the name Lyndi Alexander) is now available in print and ebook form. Her list of publications is eclectic, from science fiction to romance to horror, from tech reporting to television reviews. Alana is married to an absent-minded computer geek. Together, they have a dozen computers, seven children and a full house in northwestern Pennsylvania.