Dusting off the old manuscripts?

It’s Tuesday again, Scribesters, PJ Sharon here. I’d like to talk today about revisiting those old manuscripts. You know…the ones you’ve got under the bed next to the old Pink Floyd albums, in the closet, or hiding at the back of your hard drive?

Most writers, when they first start putting pen to paper, have no idea how to…well…write. Something compels us to record these crazy stories in our heads. We work our butts off, and are so excited when we write “The End,” that we ignore the fact that our stories have plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, head hopping that even Nora would cringe at, and stilted dialogue that makes our characters sound like they just came out of a Cracker Jack box. Until we have someone read them for us, and they say kindly—or not so kindly—“you’ve got a lot to learn about the craft of writing.” At least that was my experience.

I actually have four such manuscripts, all of which have point of view problems and more –ing words per page than a do-it-yourself manual. My first novel, a 100,000 word fantasy erotic romance (although a fun tale that taught me a dozen ways to describe the act of sex) will sadly never see the light of day. My second book though, was a paranormal romance called “The Amulet” about a witch and a witch hunter. It was a ton of fun to write and had a lot of promise. After that, I wrote two romantic suspense novels. One of which is complete at 100k and the other which is three quarters finished—all great stories, but none written particularly well.

While revising SAVAGE CINDERELLA, I realized how much I’ve grown as a writer even over the past year. I’m still wiping out those -ing words and anhilating the passive voice issues left and right, but at least I spot the problems and know how to fix them. Now that I’ve learned a thing or two about the craft of writing, what’s to stop me from resurrecting these fabulous tales, revising them, and putting them out there?

As an indie author, I can if I want to (that’s my rebellious inner teen talking again).

For one thing, I’m now branded as a YA author, so switching genres at this point would require a lot of work. Since I don’t want my teen readers picking up my adult books, I’d have to create a whole new persona and brand myself all over again in order to sell my books. This sounds like way too much work to me. I also have to consider the fact that I have lots of YA story ideas and books planned for the next year, so it would seem that my dance card is full…unless…

Well don’t you know,  I’ve seen a bunch of indie authors coming out with novellas and doing quite well crossing genres and selling a ton of these short novels under different pen names. I’ve also seen some authors use these novellas by offering them for free to increase the sales of their other books. It seems to be quite an effective marketing tool.

Hmmm…this has me thinking about all of those fun and interesting manuscripts that I’ve already written. I believe they are salvageable if I cut out all of the unnecessary words and straighten out the craft problems. I might even be able to turn them into YA stories. A major overhaul and I could have three or four novellas to add to my cyber bookshelf. What about a book of short stories?

I’m seriously considering this option and would love to hear what you all think. Great idea, or nightmare waiting to happen? What about you? Do you read novellas? Like short stories? Do you have a novel you could dust off and resurrect? Maybe you could indie publish and see what happens? You’ve really got nothing to lose and everything to gain.


29 thoughts on “Dusting off the old manuscripts?”

  1. I’ve revised and self-published several novellas, some that I had published elsewhere, and some that I had sent to publishers, but that were not dark enough (vampire for Nocturne), and they’ve done extremely well. I also write YA, and at first had them under my maiden name. But then I found so many were reading both my hotter wolf stories and my YA, that I just write under my married name. I was always trying to find my niche when I was trying to get published to begin with. The problem was I’m an eclectic reader and LOVE to read everything. Which makes me an eclectic storyteller and I LOVE to write about everything. So I compromised. I write the story of the heart, no matter what the genre. And let readers decide as to whether they want to take a chance at something new or not. 🙂

    Good luck!

  2. I like novellas by authors I read. It’s a quick way to enjoy a story…one that doesn’t have me up until 3:00am finishing a good read. And usually, there’s another novella queued right up after, if it’s a book of novellas. I say, “Go for it!”

  3. Thank you, Terry. I’ve been in a conundrum about this for a while. i, too am an eclectic reader and writer. I do love the freedom we have with indie-pubbing and I’m seeing lots of authors successfully cross genres in the indie world.

    My YA are pretty mature anyway, so I don’t think it’s a big leap for 16 and 17 year olds to read adult material. Besides, I think most of my current readership is adult women who enjoy contemporary YA and I don’t want to lose my readership by switching names. Having said that, I think I would still tone down anything I add to my PJ Sharon cybershelf, just because I have a day job where I wouldn’t want my clients reading anything too steamy. They’ve all been very supportive of my writing, but as a massage therapist…um…can you say awkward?

    Good to know you’ve found novellas to be so successful. Now, all I have to do is find another two hours in my day, LOL.

    Thanks for stopping by. I must add your wolf series to my Kindle. It looks great!

  4. I have a lot of old manuscripts. From age 12 to age 22 or so, I wrote 20 YA novel-length manuscripts, all longhand in spiral notebooks, most of which I still have.

    Occasionally I do resurrect an oldie. My novel Cluing In started off when I was about 25 as a story focusing on Jebbi instead of Jamey Mandel, who’s now the main character. Then about ten or twelve years later, I rewrote it with the focus on Jamey, but there were a huge number of subplots. I submitted that version a couple years later and was told to rewrite it without all the subplots–and I ended up with Cluing In in its now-published form. It’s a much better story, and some of those myriad subplots will become their own novels. (My editor said so, and thus shall it be. LOL.) Two of my real oldies, written when I was 16 and 18 respectively, will also become novels in this universe, because they’re about Jamey’s parents’ teen years. They’re going to need a LOT of work…

    Most of the stuff I wrote when I was younger would have to be rewritten from scratch to be publishable. Some of it wouldn’t even be publishable then, because the plots and characters aren’t solid enough. But someday I might dig some of them out and see what I can do.

    1. You are prolific, Jo! i know what you mean about the total re-write. Those 100k manuscripts i’ve got could easily be whittled down to 80k or less after I get rid of all the nonsense and drivel and unnecessary plot lines. I’m thinking some could even be cut right in half. The only problem is that I’ve never written a novella because my brain seems to think in full length manuscripts. Hacking them down to novella or short story form, might be really difficult. We’ll see. Don’t know until we try.

  5. I actually just finished writing a Novella. It was fun. I have also read novellas and also have read anthologies. I wonder if there would be a group of writers we know who would like to put their novellas together and publish. Hmmmm …. that’s something to think about.

    1. Hi Gerri. It’s a great way to cross-promote, but I would bet there are some technical difficulties that would make it labor intensive, such as dividing up the profits and book keeping. And who is responsible for formatting, cover design, etc.? I’m part of the WG2E anthology for October and D.D. Scott seems to have worked all that out. She and her crew put out an anthology about every other month, so it can be done, but I have no idea how they handle the logistics.

  6. I have too many manuscripts beneath my bed and stored in my closet to count-which is sad. I write fast-I’ve done the ‘book in a week’ push..that was really fun and I got over 42K words in a week and I’ve written one completed novel in 28 days.

    Looking back through them for me was an exercise in laughter (blushing-did I really write something that hokey?????) and pondering ‘could I work this somehow’. I’d hate for those manuscripts to never see the light of day but I’m wondering if any authors have ever successfully sold an ‘under the bed’ manuscript. Do you know? I think that would be quite an inspiring story!

  7. Hi Sonya. There’s nothing wrong with being prolific. I love the saying that it takes 500,000 words of practice before you can learn how to write a decent book. I had that goal in mind when I started this venture about six years ago and I’ve gone beyond that. But some of those early drafts are aweful, aren’t they? My idea is to resurrect the great ideas and flush the junk, which should amount to a publishable few stories. We
    ll see. I think Gena Showalter said that she dug out an old mss.and brought it back to life when she took up writing again after a long (many years) break. She’s doing quite well.

  8. I do not have any old ugly full manuscripts hidden away. I do have a couple of WIPs, and a few first chapters that didn’t go anywhere (and no longer interest me, so most likely are not ever going to go anywhere). I do have ideas for a couple of novellas. I like the notion of being able to try out something new (both of these novella ideas are for paranormals) that would require weeks to finish rather than months. I also like to read novellas, for much the same reason. Sometimes you just want something that doesn’t need a huge time commitment — kind of like going to the bakery for a dozen cookies, when you could have made them yourself.

  9. I have several things in varying stages waiting for me to return. The thing is, they’re in different genres, from psychological suspense to steampunk and time travel.. In some, I can fit horses (since that’s sort of the foundation of my branding now) but a horse connection might be a stretch in others.

  10. I too have about fifteen hand written manuscripts that are cringe worthy and just plain awful. I totally believe that people need to practice practice practice before they are really able to write a decent book. I think I recently have learned enough to actually write a book that won’t make me cringe when I look back on it in a few years.

    1. It’s fun to look back and see how far you’ve come. It’s also a good revision exercise to go back and rework some of the old stuff to see if you can spot where you went wrong and how you can improve.

  11. I say go for it! And don’t worry about a different identity. The more we can read from you the better! 🙂 I have a really old handwritten manuscript that I started in my early twenties. I was thinking about it the other day. It’s truly awful, but I’m thinking of doing a MAJOR re-write and just see what happens

  12. I’ve also been thinking about this lately. I have two novellas that I wrote ages ago, and they definitely need a lot of work. The good thing is I now have the experience and knowledge to tackle it; I just wonder if it will be more work to clean up something bad than it would be to write a whole new story. Still, it’s fun to consider. 🙂

    1. I agree Angela. I’m asking the same question. I have plenty of ideas for new YA books. My reason for considering reviving my old stories is the idea of building up my cybershelf by adding a few novellas that I could put up for free to drive up sales and offer those smaller portions, if you will.

  13. I have a few manuscripts hidden away. I’m re-purposing two of them – one is my next book. I like the characters and I’m not ready to let them molder away in my cubby. As far as resurrecting your old stuff – I’m still waiting on the witch amulet story. Write what you love and the readers will follow! (My variation of – if you build it, they will come).

    1. Thanks Casey. I feel that way too. I often think of my character from the Amulet (named Casey, BTW) and miss her. She needs her story to be told, so I think she’ll be the first to come out of the closet…so to speak, LOL.

  14. Not that my opinion is worth a flip, but I think you should go for it. (That is, if you still love the stories enough to put in the work to salvage them.) I was reading on Chuck Wendig’s blog recently where he talked about not allowing your brand to limit you. One of the thing he suggested was publishing in several genres. Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Catie. I’m seeing lots of authors do it successfully, and i do love paranormal romance. The hardest part is finding the time to diversify. So many stories…so little time. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. I have two major works I’d like to revise that I wrote as a beginning writer. They’re good stories, and one was even picked up by an agent. However, it never sold. Looking at it now, I can see the structural problems. So that’s on my list to do, but I always seem to be so busy working on a current WIP that I can’t go back and rework them. As for you, have you thought of serializing your manuscript? It’s quite popular, and it might go well with teens who could read it on their phones.

    1. Oooh! I like that idea Suzanne. Serializing…hmmm…I could do that. WattPad is a great place to launch a project like that. Food for thought. Thanks!

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