Everything is subjective, except for the things you just know

ThursdaysChildrenMy last blog post was about growth from one manuscript to the next. If it doesn’t land an agent, if it doesn’t find a publisher, take what you can from it and build for the next one, and the next one, and the next one until you’ve created the piece you know you have in you somewhere.

Everything in that post is true. Everything in that post is positive and good.

An excerpt: “I have two manuscripts and zero agents. Does that mean I’m 0-2? No, because there are great things in the first one and even better things in the second. Take time to identify where you’ve improved and what’s better and why it’s better. Then, when you start another project, you can take those little successes with you.”

Couldn’t have said it better my–anyways …

Here’s the update, the addendum to that. Only move on if you are unconvinced.

A day after posting that, I started conceptual and outlining work on a new project. It isn’t a sequel but a different take on my last project, taking what I learned and loved and reshaping it into something different. I love my character and concept, but after collecting some query reject emails I started taking stock.

No, “taking stock” is just a fancy way of saying “conceded.” I conceded. I was too quick to collect the little things I did better and apply them to something else.

I started outlining this new take on my last story. The outlining was going well. Then, I needed an interesting setting for a particular scene. I remembered a setting from my last ms and swiped it. I mean, what the hell. This is going to be a better piece and not compatible with the previous, so just swipe it.

Then I needed a chase sequence. Well, my last one had a chase sequence, so I reread it and took the good pieces right out, like spare parts.

Then I needed … then I needed … then I needed …

After about two hours of this, I got angry. Like, really damn angry. At myself. One chapter outline after another, I had reused pieces from nearly every corner of my previous manuscript. The one still out for query. The one I had conceded.

So I put my foot down in the form of a “highlight all text / delete” that left the screen with my new outline blank, with a blinking cursor.

This is art, it’s subjective, except for what I just know: I’ve written something good. Can it be improved? Yes, that’s obvious. But was I willing to concede it as a mere rung in my writing ladder? No, at least not yet.

I’ve written something good.

I turned that blank page and blinking cursor into a revamped first chapter, a better first chapter. I went back to my query spreadsheet and split it in two: Those who got the old opening, and those who will get the new one.

I’m digging in. I’m making my stand. With this story. I will start a new project one day … but not yet.

I didn’t know how I felt about my manuscript until I tried to leave it behind.

What do you know about your work?

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3 thoughts on “Everything is subjective, except for the things you just know

  1. I’m with you. I’ve a few manuscripts under the bed, too. Have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? He supports your notion that practice really does play into success. The more you use a skill the better it becomes. Also in his data collection, he never found a person who put in the time and didn’t improve.


  2. Sometimes it turns out that I don’t know nearly as much about my own work as my betas and CPs do. Sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes I need to walk away, write something different, then come back, maybe a month later, maybe a year later. Sometimes the things I knew a year ago were only the tip of the iceberg, or were just one side of the story or were only partial truths. Sometimes I can borrow spare parts, sometimes I need to reinvent the whole damn machine…

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