I recently read and commented on Kim Smith’s author blog Is this book DOA? Five Ways to Know and it got me thinking. – love when that happens –
Is the Heyswood novel DOA? Two years ago, when I was tired of the manuscript I was working on and was about to start off with a new set of characters and new story idea, I realized I was working on my 13th manuscript and something clicked in my brain. This was not cool. To have too many unfinished manuscripts to be starting a new one, again.
The unsettling part wasn’t that there were so many, it was that they were ALL unfinished.
I pushed the loveseat against the wall, moved the kitty cabana to the window, fished out my camping sit-seat, and set-up my laptop in the living room. I turned Pandora on to a Brittany Spears station and poured myself an adult beverage. Then I proceeded to sort through every scrap of paper, notebook and computer file I had. It was a huge mess.
I sorted by book idea, craft notes and miscellaneous. The electronic files were the most difficult. Apparently, my nervous nature combined with believing if something bad can happen then it will probably happen to me and my write-aholic/burn out habitual cycle, created a poorly organized electronic filing system. There were a lot of duplicate files with minor changes on each version and the only way to know which was the most recent was by the last modified date. I shuffled everything into its corresponding Book Title folder and figured I’d deal with it the next time I start writing those stories.
What I gained from The Great Sort of 2012 was a snapshot of my writing to-date. I picked the story that had the most material and as I read through it, my passion to tell the story sparked. And here I am, two years later, still tinkering with it. Is it DOA?
No, I don’t think it is. Heyswood isn’t actually one book. At The Great Sort of 2012 it was Jane and Colin. Jane a widow, and Colin inheriting the dead husband’s title. But Colin was already a titled gentleman, he was Lord Trentworth, and Heyswood was a lesser title he was inheriting. Jane was staying at the country estate, carrying on her husband’s work of renting horses to local smugglers. Colin came to visit the property and the two most certainly did not get along. They were supposed to move to the London townhouse, but then I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story so that it would be acceptable to readers to overlook them living together in town. And I stalled. For months. It was quite sad actually.
But I was determined to stick with it. I refused to start a 14th story. But in many ways I did. The Heyswood novel as is it today is a totally different story. Now, it all happens in Town. Colin Shelby, a tradesman, inherits the Marquidom upon Lord Heyswood’s sudden and bloody death. Julia is traumatized by her husband’s death, she is living with relatives and chaperoning her cousin. There are no smugglers and the love is different, it is a quieter love.
Kim’s article offers helpful analysis. For the Heyswood novel:
- Yes, it physically, mentally and emotionally hurts to work on the book. But – I think in this case it is because physically, I am uncomfortable in my chair thanks to physical ailments I’ve been dealing with; mentally, I have a two year on/off relationship with this story, disillusionment gathers since I’ve re-envisioned it multiple times hoping that I’m making the story stronger while I hone my craft; and emotionally, writing scenes to bring emotion to the page is draining, especially when I’m digging through memories of strong emotions from personal experience.
- Yes – Just. Cannot. Do. It. – say hello to one side of my write-aholic/burnt out cycle.
- No. – I see the beauty.
- No. – I don’t have questions, I know what I need to do. (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, go.)
- Yes. But – while I know some of my tinkering is procrastination, part of it is genuinely editing the work. I like to study craft. When I’m having trouble getting out of burn out I often start re-reading craft books, inevitably I open the manuscript and magic happens, I’m a write-aholic again.
Read Kim’s article. What do you think about DOA books? Is there a spectrum, with a point of diminishing returns based on time investment? How long do I continue to work on the Heyswood novel until it has just been too long – and if I walk away from this book, will I ever complete a manuscript? How long do we hold out hope to hear a heartbeat before pronouncing a manuscript dead?
>Author’s liberty: I couldn’t resist. I have nostalgic memories about The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.