Letting that first manuscript rest in peace


About a year ago, I typed “End of Book One” on the last page of my first draft of my first manuscript. It was the culmination of decades of thinking and rethinking a story that started with a poem I wrote in high school. For decades, “maybe I should write that as a novel one day” would go in and out of my head. Finally, last year, I committed to writing it. And I finished it … well, as the picture would imply, there is more to be told.

I couldn’t help but dream big. People are going to love this story! It’s fantastic! A couple beta readers really went nuts for it!

But despite the high hopes and delusions of grandeur, somewhere in my gut I knew that I’d be here, right now, writing this blog post; a blog post about finally being pulled from off the manuscript, like a medic not willing to give up on CPR.

Time to check the e-mail timestamp and call it: Manuscript No. 1, time of death, 11:55 a.m.

I queried it heavily and I’m sure I could scrounge up more agents to throw it at, but it’s had enough. The stats: About 100 queries sent, five full requests, two partials. All eventual passes, capped by the last hold out today. Some full passes were lazy, “liked it didn’t love it,” but most gave great comments, so let’s dwell on those:

“(X) is a great protagonist.”

“There is a really marvelous sense of isolation and tension in the opening chapters.”

“There is some great writing here.”

“I didn’t see that twist coming, and I’m not often surprised.”

“It is clear you are a gifted writer.”

But in the end, this is an all-or-nothing proposition. A yes is a yes, a no is a no. And this manuscript is a no. (It took me a few seconds just now to type that last n and o.

What am I left with? A millions things, but mostly the takeaway of going through the experience of creating a full-length story. And that helped me write, finish and query a second one. And that is helping me with two other manuscripts (one being written right now and the other partially written and moved to the on-deck circle.

Of these three other ones, one is YA Urban Fantasy, another is YA Horror set after the Civil War, and the last is YA Contemporary about faith. What do they have in common? All three are better than that first manuscript, the one I’m declaring dead today.

Everything I have comes from that first story, and more specifically, that first main character: Avery. This lyric from Wicked says it better than I ever could, so this is for you, A:

“It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime / so let me say before we part so much of me is made from what I learned from you / You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart / And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.”


One thought on “Letting that first manuscript rest in peace

  1. Beautifully put! I, too, trunked my first “real” novel this year. I’d written books before, but this was the book of my heart, the one I was sure was publishable. It wasn’t. And saying good-bye was hard. But sometimes you know when it’s time. The upside is, you’ll write more books & they’ll keep getting better.

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