Writing Tips - Day 2 - Drawered Manuscripts

Funny how terms don't always change as fast as the times - and, at other times change at lightning speed! Used to be that writers had a drawer (or drawers!) full of uncompleted, unedited, and/or in other ways unpublishable manuscripts. Now I think those mostly reside on hard drives, thumb drives, and other electronic storage devices. Today's writing tip is about what to do with all those languishing tomes.

First of all - some deserve to languish. Admit it & move on. Those are baby steps on the way to learning to walk. Good to remember, but now you've more or less 'got' the idea of how to motor along.

Then again, there are those whose ideas just won't let you go. They nag you, tug at your thoughts when you least expect it. It might be the setting, the plot, or one or more of the characters - but, something in the story won't let you go.

My tips is to allow yourself some time to noodle whatever portion of said manuscript keeps coming to you. At some point, maybe in a journaling session, maybe while driving in your car, cooking dinner, taking a shower... or maybe while you're daydreaming -- it will come to you exactly where and how to make it work.

You may end up changing POV, setting, going from YA to MG or vice versa - but you might resurrect the bones of that manuscript into a beautiful, living story. Or, perhaps it won't be the story itself - but a character, a plot point, the location, interactions, motivation - something will prove to be invaluable in a completely different story. And, you'll be grateful you didn't trash the whole thing and forget about it completely.

Got any "drawered manuscripts" that are still calling your name?


Andrea Mack said...

The more I write, the more I'm learning. So, once in a while when I pull up one of those drawered files, I realize what I could do to improve it. Sometimes it's not that much work so I can do it. Other times, I just leave it. I can write something better that's fresh.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

The manuscript I'm working on now was a drawered manuscript. I got the idea for it almost ten years ago, but simply couldn't make it work. It was too far above my maturity level (writerly and actual) at the time. But the story wouldn't just let go, and every few years I would think about it and wish I could resurrect it. Finally I have, and its flowing together beautifully. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I have one that keeps calling my kids' names, and then THEY bug me about it. It's just that... Ugh. It'd take SO much work to make it work.

Rachel Menard said...

As you said, I have a thumb drive full of drawered manuscripts. I just started a new one and pulled the best plot elements and characters from the old ones to turn something okay into something (I hope) will be great. A word is never wasted!

tiffanygarner said...

Happened to me today while I was mowing the lawn. I was musing over an old story, wondering if there was anything still useful from it, and one of the characters wouldn't leave my mind. When I thought about my WIP, I realized he fit right in! Not only that, he would add to the story! They're definitely worth keeping around sometimes.

Julia Karr said...

OOooo! I love hearing how y'all are dealing with the drawered writing! Yay for increased maturity, knowing when to say nuh-uh, and reusing ideas and characters!

Tere Kirkland said...

Most of the time I open up an old ms, see how much work it needs, and close the file and start something new.

The ONLY way, IMO, to rewrite a trunked ms is from scratch. Trying to combine two writing styles (your older, poorer one, and your recent, stronger one) is a recipe for disaster.

It's usually the characters who stay with me more than any of the scenes or the dialogue, anyway.

Great post!

Lisa_Gibson said...

I love the thought of 'noodling' something over. When my son was little there was a cartoon we used to watch where they did the noodle dance. Love it!
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Julia Karr said...

Good points, Tere! It's best to take the gems & put them in a new setting!

Yes, Lisa... noodling is fun!

butchie34 said...

Thank God someone understands!! There has been one manuscript which just won't DIE. I keep putting it in the drawer and a few weeks or months later, I'm writing something else (or at least trying) and I'll find myself thinking about it.

I've actually considered getting a priest to try and exorcise it :D.