Monday, July 19, 2010

When To Ditch That So Called Masterpiece

When do you know to toss a piece of writing into the bin of never-mind-forget-I-wrote-that? Did you ever write a short story, or heck, an entire novel, that nobody seems to "get," but you don't want to give up on it? How do you know when to quit tweaking it just a bit so you can submit to it to "just one more place" and instead slip it into the Folder of No Return?

I have a short story I'll call Ed. Now Ed, is a humorous speculative flash fiction piece. I've subbed Ed to seven magazines and received comments such as "Flesh out more," "Well written, but not for us," "Main character should have bitten someone."

Saturday I forcibly read Ed aloud to Dear Husband. I laughed. Dear Husband didn't. Though DH said he "could see the humor in it." This was most likely my cue to put Ed to bed.

Dear Husband suggested I change a small detail- one character's age. I did. Boom. Then I sent it off to another mag. Bam.

I awoke Sunday morning with a sinking feeling. Changing the age created a little flaw in the plot. I won't bore you with the details. (I'd rather bore you with vagueness.)

Here's an article on a related note. Susanna Daniel discusses the urge to quit writing that book that seems to be taking forever. She's a bit of an expert on this. Her soon-to-be-out novel, Stiltsville, took her ten years to complete! I hope you'll check out her article as well as the book. :)


Shelley Sly said...

What a great post! I have an "Ed" of my own, but my "Ed" is a novel -- my very first novel, in fact. I've written three now, but I still can't forget my "Ed". I've even given it a drastic makeover, changing POV and some little plot points, and it's still got major issues. :(

I'm excited to query my shiny new unrelated-to-"Ed" Book #3 once it's edited, but in the meantime, what do we do about our Eds? (The "bin of never-mind-forget-I-wrote-that" -- oh, how I relate!)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Hi Shelley, so glad you came by!

When it's an entire novel, it's even harder to give up. :(
I don't even want to call my first novel "Ed" yet. That's how attached I am to it. But whether it's my poor query writing skills or the market or it's just a lousy book, I can't find anybody interested in taking it on.

For short stories, I guess you can plop it onto your own blog for the world to see. I've even seen novels stuck onto their own blogs published in serial form.

Then there is the self publishing route. With epublishing that's cheap to free.

But if the story/book just ain't right, maybe that's not the way to go. Major revision? Turn it into a graphic novel? Chop it up and salvage the parts and/or characters?


Hey, right on about your shiny new book #3! :) It's very good to move on to other projects, isn't it? I'll be glad when I finish one of my other new novels. Why am I writing two at once when I couldn't get number one published? Crazy. LOL

Karen Denise said...

Great post. I actually have the opposite. I gave up on a story I wrote when I was in my early twenties (I'm 37 now) and everyone who read it (family and friends) loved it. They still ask why I haven't tried to get it published, and the truth of the matter is, it's in the bin for a reason. It wasn't very good. I think every mistake you can make in a ms, I made. More importantly, I haven't been inspired to work on it in years. I won't say I never will, but for now, it has to stay in the bin.

karabu said...

Gonna be a little PollyAnnaish here, so bear with me.
I've listened to countless agent and editor interviews where they talk about how tough it is when they have to reject stories they really like because they just don't have time/space to accept all the good stuff they get. So I don't think rejections alone are a reason to give up. I think you give up when you decide that you don't have a spark for the piece anymore. When you have a new story that you're more excited about now for example. When you personally for whatever reason are ready to let it go.
Every publishing professional I've heard talk says that persistence matters more then talent. I'm hanging on to that!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Karen, good points. This reminds me of what a friend just pointed out to me. That we shouldn't keep around work we don't like for fear that somebody will publish it after we are dead.

But if people love the story you wrote, there must be something in it that has merit. Something touched them even if it isn't perfect. Perhaps it may be worth perfecting if you ever are between projects and have the desire. I have trouble truly flushing old defunked projects forever. Guess that's why my computer (and my house) gets so cluttered. LOL

Kara, I love that optimistic thinking! Bring it on. :)
Yep, 90% is just showing up. Er... I can't recall the exact quote or the exact percentage.

I guess part of it is finding the magazine or publisher that's the right fit for the story/novel and catching them at the right time.

Or just give that story a rest until you're already successful.
Stephen King wrote:
"One thing I've noticed is that when you've had a little success, the magazines are a lot less apt to use that phrase, 'Not for us.'"

reberto.alberto said...

Hi there! is organizing a short story writing contest.

We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

“Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check -

Happy writing!

Mohamed Mughal said...

Please, please, please let us know how things go with Ed. I don't know about your other readers, but I'm intrigued :)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thanks, Roberto.

Mohamed, sure enough! :)

rama said...

I feel the more rejections I get, I more I would get ideas to make it work for me. But first I myself would go through it many times, and see what elements I can add to it, to make it more gripping or interesting to the readers. Most of the times my writings were never changed or edited by the editor, after it has been edited by me.
I think one must never dump anything, for I am sure there was a reason that inspired us to write whatever was written in the first place. With a little polishing it can reach readers, who would definitely love our final product.
Wish you all the very best.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Rama, wow, you gave me a whole new perspective on this. :)
Your comment gives me a higher respect for my stories and urges me to take better care in editing my work. "With a little polishing it can reach readers." So true.

Medeia Sharif said...

I gave up on several novels I wrote in my teens and twenties, even though some agents said they had merits. I spent a lot of time and effort writing them, but they lacked the oomph of my current writing. I fell out of love with these novels, and it was difficult to get representation for them.

Weronika Janczuk said...

I enjoyed your insight, and thanks for the link to that article. :)

Sorry about Ed,but hey, we all have to move on sometimes.

Al said...

My Ed was a novel.
I came back to it years later and re-wrote entirely.
Now it's called Joe :-)

Sorry I have an obscure sense of humour.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Medeia, I suppose sometimes we just have to chalk it up to practice- long, involved, blood, sweat, and tear filled practice.

Weronika, you're welcome. And you are so right. :)

Al~ LOL :D

Stephen Tremp said...

Wow ... 10 years to write. And I thought 3 years was bordering lunacy. But we do what we have to do. Better to go to the grave knowing you tried rather than giving up and walking away.

Stephen Tremp

Amanda Borenstadt said...

True, true, Stephen. :)

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