Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why you shouldn’t throw out your old manuscripts.

Today, I have a guest post by fellow HarperCollins author, Nicole Murphy. If you're ever wondered what to do with that old manuscript, read on! Nicole has some great advice.

Because you can use them one day. That’s why.

Right, now that I’ve got the short answer out of the way, folks who are interested can read on. The rest of you – have a nice day :)

Here’s the thing – you’re probably going to have a LOT of ideas in your lifetime. And new ideas tend to push the old ideas out of your head. That story that right now you love? In a few years time, you’ll forget it ever existed.

That’s why you need to keep everything you write. You won’t remember that really cool idea. You won’t remember that sweet little story that you just loved, but then magpie-like a new idea came and you put it aside, saying that you’d go back to it later, although you never did.

Then you get to have the joy that one day – probably in the name of procrastination – you decide to tidy up your hard drive or filing system or wherever you keep your stories and you open the file and you read it and realise that it’s still a sweet, lovely story and how on Earth did you forget it?

It happens. Happened to me just a few months ago and that story is out on submission and being heavily considered by a magazine at the moment. So keep them.

So what then? It’s very true that old manuscripts can have a new life, but how and in what way?

Well, sometimes the idea of the manuscript is interesting, but the way it’s currently written just isn’t working. For example, I’ve got this weird little hybrid thing that is a mix of genres, tied together in a simple story of a father whose job it is to create the manual by which his unborn child will be educated (not quite the same as actually bearing the child, but at least he’s playing a part). The idea is great – however when I wrote it way back in 2002, I just didn’t have the skills to make it work. So it sits on my hard-drive, being seen on the occasions I decide to tidy up, being remembered and slowly but surely cooking until it’s ready.

Sometimes, you just didn’t get round to doing the final polish and submission on the story. So you do it, and you submit it and what do you know? You’ve actually sold something that might never have been sold if you threw it away.

Sometimes it’s a storyline, or a character, or a scene or a line that makes its way across to a new piece. Something you’d have to create all over again, if you didn’t have a version of it ready to go with a few alterations.

Then there are the stories waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, to find their home. One such story for me was “The Right Connection”.

I wrote this story in 2002. It was part of a push for me to accept that instead of just writing romance as sub-plots in stories (including the weird little hybrid thing I mentioned earlier), I should just bite the bullet and have a go at writing a full-on romance.

I got to the end of that story and I quite liked it, but then I realised that if I was ever going to get ANY of the novella-novel length stories I’d written published, I needed to learn how to edit.

And I’d just had an idea for a fantasy romance, featuring a secret magical race that lived amongst us humans. So I taught myself to edit through the process of writing what would eventually become the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, which is currently on sale in Australia and I HOPE will one day be available around the rest of the world.

Roll on to 2007. “The Right Connection” was five years old and just wouldn’t let me go. I’d continually re-open the file, fall in love with Taylor and Roden all over again, but I just wasn’t sure what to do with it. I wanted to try writing a screenplay and I thought maybe that was what “The Right Connection” should be. Nope, just wasn’t going to fit there either. So I closed the file again.

Roll on to 2011. Again the file was opened. Again, I tinkered with it. I did more worldbuilding. There was something about this story, a heart, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what to do with it. Disheartened, I moved on to something else.

And so we come to this year. In March, I decided to get more heavily involved in self-publishing – both as a form of publicity for the Asarlai trilogy, and to set myself deadlines (yeah, I know, I love deadlines and that’s all kind of wrong).

And bang. Just like that, I knew what “The Right Connection” would be – my first self-published novella.

So here it is – finally out in the world, like a real grown-up story. And that would never have happened if, at some time over the years, I’d thought to myself ‘Well, this story is old, forget it’ and tossed it.

So don’t toss your stories. Hold them, look at them from time to time, because you never know what they’ll grow up to be.

NOTE: Nicole is also the author of Secret Ones, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda.

Nicole, thanks so much for joining us today!

Now, post a comment below, telling Nicole of something that you just can’t let go, and you’ll be in the draw to win a copy of “The Right Connection” (electronic only).

1 comment:

  1. I have a pile of opening lines and paragraphs, written in my teens, that I can't let go. They are the first real ideas I had; I just never managed to get beyond a few words with any of them.
    I'll probably never write the stories, but they act as a reminder that finishing a story is hard work!