20. the death of a first novel vs. the birth of the second

there's a something in this room no one wants to talk about.
we know that.
somewhere, something died. and it took a lot of loved one's with it.
a service was held. people are mourning.

it's the death of a manuscript.

this is what it might look like

it takes awhile to figure out when this death might occur and who will carry it out.
is it the author deciding he/she can't make it work no matter how much they edit/revise/rewrite?
is it the critique partner encouraging the author to move on (and keep moving. away from the manuscript)?
is it the industry telling the author ohmygoddontsubmitavampirenovelevenifyouthinkitwillbegreatjustdon't right after you finished yours?

what's the silver lining here? you get to start over. the bad plot line? gone. that character no one liked? dead. the awkward, stilted dialogue you tried to rewrite twenty times and never quite nailed? silenced forever.

so, if this has happened to you, go ahead. kill one to save the other. we give you permission. and a shoulder (er, four shoulders) to cry on - just let us know. then, start a new one. and look like this:

yep, that's better

How about you? Have you ever killed your manuscript? Or felt like it?


  1. I think we all feel like killing off or ms at one time or another. I guess it comes down how much you love your ms. I believe it the story has an interesting premise, it can be fixed. Get it out there, have other author's comment on it. Find people critique partners who are patient and will help you through the rough spots.

    I'm speaking for experience. I had sever critique partners work with me on my ms. Before my last I thought I had a strong ms until I me Josh, who literally had me rip apart my ms and cut it down to almost half of it's original word count.

    IF the author is willing to be able to be open minded enough to do that I think any ms can be saved. It all comes down to how much you love your work and how much your willing to change it.

    Great post ladies.... interesting topic.


  2. Awesome! Nothing feels worse than the mercy-killing of a MS. But very little feels as great as a new, fresh, amazing idea getting done either. Great post. Good point. I hope someone will tell me when my MS just needs the big bullet.

  3. I have killed a manuscript. Someday I might go all Dr. Frankenstein on it and reuse bits and pieces but it will never see the light of day in it's original state. And that's a good thing. It shouldn't have!

  4. most of my manus go on a time out when they are being naughty, that makes them behave. if that does not work I try to recycle, lets just say I don't like killing my babies.

  5. Oh, many of my MSs have died slow painful deaths. Now, I'm much better and terminating them quickly.

    And holy cow! You guys met during WriteOnCon! That makes me feel all giddy inside. I'm emailing my pals. :) :)

  6. I've killed bad short stories, but never a novel. I think too big and I suppose that's why I'm not a great short story writer. It is a little disheartening when you have to let a story go and just move on. But it's for the better!

    ♥ Mary Mary

  7. michael--i think being open minded to criticism is very important if/when one is considering ending the life of an ms. just because a manuscript gets negative feedback, it doesn't mean it's a total lost cause. ahem..there's always the rewrite option. (current rewrite of mine is minimized..plan to attack it later)

    colene--hehe. i feel that way, too. i wonder if anyone reading mine is ever muttering under their breath for me to murder the dang thing. :0)

    heather--definitely recycle all portions worth saving!

    joanna--i'm with you and i understand completely (*eyes minimized solstice*)

    elana--yay! we sure did. it was my very first time connecting with anyone else who writes! it changed my life!

    mary mary--i'd love to write a short story some time...i've let a story go short-term to play with a brand new shiny idea...but i can't forget about it completely. not yet anyway. i'm still pretty new at the writing thing!


  8. Commiserations on an untimely death :( I've shelved a couple of mine - haven't buried them but suspect I will when I get around to reading them again (I have a suspicion I know how bad they are) :O

    But on the upside, it means you get to start on a SHINY NEW IDEA!!! :P


  9. Rach-
    I do love those shiny new ideas! I tend to get lots of them while stuck in the middle of a less than shiny middle of a manuscript that once upon a time was also shiny and new!!!

  10. I've never had to kill a manuscript (okay, I've only written one), so I imagine it would be like cutting your arm off. But it has to be done sometimes I guess! I can just imagine my crit partners stamping a huge DNR on my ms if they hate it.

  11. Oh, yes, I've killed plenty. This current NaNo project may be next. But once it is decided, it's like being able to breathe again.

  12. Thanks, everyone, I really appreciate all the comments! (got busy yesterday and couldn't get online. you know how that goes. . .)

    I'm hoping I don't have to mercy kill one. But it is a little sick right now, so we'll see.

    Lisa - you have lots of time to edit, don't give up yet!!


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