You know those old manuscripts you have lying around? The ones that you wrote when you first started writing and you didn’t really know what you were doing? The manuscripts you’re supposed to stash away in some imaginary drawer (because, let’s face it, nobody writes on paper anymore), and pull out years down the road, after you’ve found success and have oodles of books in all major bookstores?
Yeah, that’s the one.
Have you ever considered rewriting/editing/revising one? Or maybe you’ve already done it?
I have a question for you, “Did it work?”
The reason I ask, is because I am not “a success,” at least not yet. I am still a floundering author who’s just doing her time writing and writing and writing etc… etc… etc…
I work hard at it. I write daily. I read everything, including how-to books. I’m finishing my English degree in creative writing (12 more credits woo-hoo-hoo!) and I’m preparing to begin my Masters program next spring. And I have the most awesome writing group (Love to my SFWG sisters!!!), no seriously, they are the best.
With all of that writing I’ve accumulated close to fifty stories, all of which have great potential to become books. They have strong premises, vivid settings, and solid plots, but none of them move my pulse the way one of my very first stories did (a series of four books).
I tried and tried to rewrite this old tale and though I had requests from editors and agents, all returned with polite rejections or revise and resubmit notes, I still couldn’t get these stories where they needed to be. Instead I buried them. Every dear character I loved so much, I just shoved down to the depths of my “writing” folder and just kept on writing. I haven’t touched them or looked at them for more than a year.
Since then, I’ve written three other full manuscripts, all in various stages of rewriting disaster, and a few dozen more short stories (many have novel potential), but through each new manuscript came the cries of my ghostly protagonist from her lonesome, word-doc grave. “Don’t leave me, Candie. I’ll haunt you forever if you do,” she moans.
I kept telling her, “There’s no hope for you. I can’t save you. You’re dead, so die already!”
But she won’t listen.
And then, one day not long ago, I happened on an amazing photographer, Chris of CJC Photography, on Facebook and we got to chatting. He suggested I take a look at his portfolio to see if any of his photos might be a good match for one of my works.
Just look at how delicious his works are...
Well surprise, surprise and who do you think I saw staring back at me? That’s right, my dead and buried protagonist. Only she wasn’t dead, she was very much alive and glaring at me with her willful eyes. I was mesmerized, caught under her spell and I couldn’t turn away. And when I finally did, I found even more pictures, pictures of her with her heartthrob hottie, pictures of her in her native world, and pictures of her with the sister (whom I also love!) she's trying to save. Four perfect pictures for four very-not-perfect manuscripts.
It was a battle I couldn’t win. My protagonist would not let me walk away. And in that short little time span of maybe an hour, chatting with Chris and going over price and rights etc… I walked away (wallet considerably lighter) the proud owner of four amazing cover photos and a new plan.
See, my original idea for this series was to seek traditional publishing, and that actually encumbered me and my storytelling abilities. Because I knew, thanks to many knowledgeable friends, that in order for my series to be marketable and to acquire agent representation that these books had to have certain qualities and they had to be in a definite “hot right now” sub-genre.
But I can’t work like that. I’ve learned that about myself. I can’t write (okay, I can but I don’t like to) what everyone else is writing this minute. In fact, I try really hard to write new and fresh stories (impossible, I know) but somehow every time I’m working on something it suddenly becomes a popular topic (Does this happen to you? WTF?). The only exception has been this one series. It has never been a mainstream subject (I’m pretty sure, at least not in my lifetime), and it’s had its claws in me for so long I have scars.
How could I walk away?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now (from all of this rambling, maybe?), I have decided to dig it up and revive my old dusty four-part story and… wait for it… self-publish it.
I know some of you might say, “That’s a bad idea. Just move on and write something new.”
I’ve tried that remember. I have plenty of manuscripts I could be revising, polishing and sending out with laborsome queries, but this story won’t die.
And besides, my friends, family, critique partners (who suffered through many rounds of revision madness with me), and beta readers are all saying, “Do it! Publish it!”
And so, without further ado, I’m going to revise, edit and clean it the heck up (and OH what a mess it is!). Then I’m going to publish my gloriously chaotic series my way, the way I’ve always seen the story, messy and gritty, lovely and untainted, all of it, as it should be.
I have to let my girl have her day in the sun. She deserves to shine, even if it’s only for me.
“So rise, my obnoxiously-loud dead protagonist, wake from your slumber and go be the awesome badass I always meant you to be!”
Now, you'll have to wait for my cover reveal to see my amazing photos, and I'll let you know when I get close to publishing what my title and release date are, but until then...
Have you self published? I’d love to hear from you, please talk to me! Tell me it’s all going to be okay.
Or if you’re like me and have a story that wouldn’t die, I’d also love to know your experience, did it work? Are you still working on it? Or are you in corner talking to imaginary unicorns?
Ah! Either way, even if I go mad, I’m publishing this blasted thing. But it would sure be nice to have some company along the way.