Monday, August 4, 2014

Can This Manuscript Be Saved?

No. Sorry. Not giving you the workshop. LOL I am doing it for the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime -- which is why I'm thinking the way I am today. In fact, it starts this morning...if you're interested here's the link.

Back to my point...

Into every writer's life falls a book or two that can't be saved. I had 3. Basically, two were only in the beginning stages. I had ... probably ... 6 or 9 chapters before I realized no one (especially not me) cared about this hero or heroine...or there was no plot...or there was no conflict.

In fact, one of my funniest rejections from Silhouette before I was published read something like: Dear Susan...we are soooo sorry to have to reject this manuscript. The characters were wonderful. The sex scenes were hot. Your tender moment made us all cry. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a plot.


Right now, I could go in two directions with this blog. First, I could warn you all about self-publishing something that has been rejected. Editors are looking for good, publishable manuscripts. They don't reject something that is publishable -- unless it doesn't fit what they publish. They do sometimes have to reject things that are SALVAGABLE. But you have to know how to fix a manuscript that's close but not yet publishable to take it to the level it needs to be to be published...even self-published.

But I don't feel like going there. I'd rather talk about knowing when it's time to say goodbye.

Clearly, I believed the rejected manuscript above was ready to publish or I wouldn't have submitted it to Silhouette! LOL Yet it wasn't. And I couldn't see that.

So I guess we need a list. How to know when it's time to let go.

1.  Your book's been rejected by everybody and you don't know how to make it work or making it work requires huge changes.

That usually means there's something "fundamental" wrong with the story or the writing. I wrote an entire manuscript about a hero who was vice president of the United States and a heroine with superpowers. It was rejected everywhere. Years later when I pulled it out and read it, I realized the heroine wasn't right for the Vice President. She belonged with one of the secondary characters, a former lover. Now... Right now, you are all saying...but that can be rewritten. Exactly. It can't be revised. Too much would change. But it can be rewritten, which, in this case means starting over and if you're starting's not the same book. It's a new book. Shoot the old one and bury it. Start over.

2.  You have a big glob of story types, character flip-flopping, scenes you put in just to make it fit a trend. (Perhaps you've added a little titillating sex because you heard that sells...or at the last minute you made your hero a super secret angel because you heard angels were hot...)

Chasing trends will frequently end up with a book that's a gob of gook. You have a little suspense, a little traditional romance, the heroine talks to God -- making it inspirational, the hero's a secret angel, and it's all set in a small town.

But your book has no heart. Every book has to have a story that pulls every aspect of the book together. If your super secret angel is sent to earth to help the heroine who talks to God (from her small Texas...Syracuse people should be laughing right now) then you could have a cohesive clear story.

But if your heroine is super religious one minute and climbing all over the super-secret angel the next, her character is all over the board. And though we know people like that in real life, unless the heroine's conflict is that she's kinda crazy, inconsistent characters don't work. In fact, they ruin books. Can she be fixed? Can this manuscript be saved? Maybe...but, again, it would require so much REWRITING (nine chances out of ten) that you'd probably end up with a new story. In fact, in a case like that I'd advise the author to take a breath, write a NEW one-paragraph story summary, and start over. True, she might be able to pull a scene or two from the original version, but...again...if you are only pulling a few scenes you aren't saving a're writing a new book.

And that's it. Two things. Something fundamentally wrong and gobs of gook. The only two reasons manuscripts can't be saved.

I believe most manuscripts CAN be saved. Which is why I wrote the workshop! LOL But I also believe you need to be honest about what's wrong. You have to take a breath and read your manuscript with an open mind and be tough on yourself.

About a year before I sold my first manuscript, I was looking at the scene I had written the night before and (tired because I'd worked that day and was raising three kids) finally I just said, Oh, it's good enough.

And I paused.

I thought...what if it isn't?

What if good enough isn't good enough?

And from that point forward every time I said, Oh, that's good enough...I'd stop and rethink the scene or change the description or fix the character. I never let "good enough" dictate my work...and guess what? I sold that book.

So, only two reasons a manuscript can't be saved. Something fundamentally wrong or gobs of gook...but the real lesson here is don't be too easy on yourself. We're in an age now when anything can be published, but remember the Internet is forever. Just as that picture of you mooning from the sun roof of the limo for our best friend's bachelorette party will be around for your next potential employer to find...everything you publish or say will be out there in the ether.

Ask yourself...Ten years from now, will I be happy people can find this and read it? Is this how I want to be known as an author?


Happy Monday and Happy Reading

susan meier

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