Revising, Writing

The Manuscript That Won’t Let You Go

Do you have a manuscript that won’t let you go? It seems that every writer I talk to has one, and I’m no exception. Mine is a manuscript I shelved after querying quite successfully–well, as successfully as querying can be without an offer. It garnered a lot of interest, all the way up to an R&R, but it still wasn’t quite there. It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been two years since that manuscript. I’ve written three more since then (another queried and shelved, another in the midst of querying, and another just drafted), and yet that one still lingers as the one that got away.

I think it’s because I always knew it had so much potential, and obviously a number of agents thought it had potential as well. It just didn’t live up to that potential. They were right. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

A couple of months ago, I had this light bulb moment where I thought, I suddenly know what I need to do with this manuscript. I was in the middle of drafting my new project, so I just jotted down the notes, but still. I let those notes simmer while I finished the draft of my WIP, but I had committed to let it sit for a full month before revising, which left me with some time on my hands. So I figured, why not seize the moment and play around with this manuscript again?

As I’m revising this two-year-old manuscript, I’ve discovered it’s surprisingly easy to cut with that much distance. I’ve deleted entire scenes and even a character without remorse. I’m not tied to them the way I used to be. So when other writers tell you to put some distance from your manuscript before you revise? It’s good advice. You have perspective. Now, obviously you can’t let something sit for years, but if you ever want to go back to an old project, I think it’s a sign that there could be hope for it. Because even if you really love it, you can let go of your darlings more easily with distance, and all the feedback you received makes a lot more sense, too. You’re not so emotional about it.

I think sometimes you have to listen to that story that won’t let go of you, even if it’s just for you. I’m not revising this manuscript in order to query it or go back around to the agents who asked for it before. This is for me, to know that I can help it reach its potential. It’s not even my main priority. When my moratorium on revising the WIP is up, I’ll start on that, but I’ll come back to this later. Once I finish it, you might see a new title, word count, and description for it here on the blog, just to reflect its shiny new life. We’ll see. And who knows? Maybe my future agent (fingers crossed) will want to read it and it won’t let him/her go, either :). But even if it never goes any further than my own computer, I’ll be ok with that, because this is just something I have to do.

What about you? Do you have a project you can’t let go? That tugs at your heart and pulls you back in over and over?

24 thoughts on “The Manuscript That Won’t Let You Go”

  1. You know I’ve got one of these! So cool that our precious manuscripts called out to us for attention at the same time. 🙂

  2. I have projects like that. Most of them are partial drafts. There is one in particular that I would like to go back to some day and see if I can work out the ending.

    Love those lightbulb moments!

    1. Actually, it’s DUET (although I gave it a shiny new title :)). I think I just didn’t have the YA voice down when I aged it up, plus there were some lingering MG themes I didn’t adjust enough. CAVEBOY would need more of an overhaul than a revision. It’s still my husband’s favorite, though!

  3. Yes, been there, done that. Although I eventually gave up on the manuscript, I kept the characters and placed them in a new story. Revising now and was glad to have some familiar faces as I wrote them into a different adventure.

  4. I have a story that I shelved a long while back, but it’s been pestering me lately to come take another look. I peeked through it– and I’m thinking it may be easier than I thought to edit it, though it will take some major work. All those times I tried to rewrite it completely didn’t work. But maybe now that it’s been a few years since I looked closely at the draft, maybe I can try doing my normal editing routine to see if I can make it into a viable manuscript. 🙂

    1. It’s amazing how a few years’ distance can give you new perspective. Part of it is that you’re not as attached, but also you’ve grown as a writer, and that helps, too. Good luck!

      1. Very true. It helps to be able to look at the manuscript and see what’s working, and to be able to distinctively see what -isn’t- working. I’ve been editing another story on and off for a while now, and I’ve been surprised at how much my writing has improved since I first started, and it does get easier to make edits after time has passed since last working on a project.

        Good luck with you’re writing, too. 🙂

  5. I have such a MS. I take it out once in a while, work on it until I grow frustrated, then shelve it again.
    Actually, this last time I figured out what it needed so I should follow through. Someday I will, because there is a beautiful fairy tale hiding until all that “first book syndrome” writing.

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