Digging out Your Old WIP: A Monster in the Closet?

In 2005, I wrote my first novel from beginning to end.  It was such a wonderful feeling to actually write those precious words ‘The End’.  Some time later I gave it to a writing friend to read to see what she thought of it.  ‘This is great – no brilliant’ was what she had written.  Buoyed by her response and her suggestions, I continued.  Four years later after numerous changes and edits, I took a couple of chapters with me to a workshop with Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying.  According to her, my protagonist was almost there, but not quite there yet.  Once again I continued tweaking the novel.  But after several years of editing and re-writing, I am now beginning to wonder if this one will ever see the light of day.

I’m sure you’ve heard of authors who talk about a particular novel or couple of novels that stay hidden away in some old drawer, never to be published.  They knew when to give up on them and continue with something else.  Some authors decide to go over their old hidden novels, brush them off and consider getting them published.  Perseverance, is after all, a requirement of becoming a writer.  But when do you actually decide that your novel isn’t working; that enough is enough?

My trouble is I continue to go over this particular novel because I need to tell it.  It is personal – after all, there is that old saying that an author’s first novel is usually autobiographical.  I continue with it despite changes in viewpoint, characters, plot development; I can’t let it go.  Perhaps I’ve been working on it for too long that it deserves to be hidden away (either short term or permanently), while I continue re-writing my other novels and begin new projects.

So how do you know when enough is enough with your own work?  Do you have any projects that will perhaps never see the light of day?

*And yes, in case you’re wondering, I am a perfectionist! 🙂

Free image by Victor Habbick courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 thoughts on “Digging out Your Old WIP: A Monster in the Closet?

  1. Yes! Projects galore, which even after multiple rejections, I refuse to give up on, thinking perhaps after another year of lying dormant, with a good wash down, they may begin to shine…I guess writing can be much like anything else in life Deb; relationships, dying pot plants, raising goldfish, eating chocolate cake…sometimes it is difficult to know when enough is enough. If there was an answer to; when do you know? there would be no divorces, rooms full of ferns, less fish to replace and less obesity. But then I love chocolate cake and all my mss! Keep working on it – reverse it, throw the words up and juggle them madly. Who knows they may look better when caught in different ways.

  2. Debbie Johansson 28/11/2011 — 3:33 am

    I hear you Dimity! I tend to put this particular WIP away for some time, but think of different ways in which to re-write it (or should I say – make it better). I think the best thing is to keep doing it this way, while working on other projects. I hope to get it out there eventually. Thanks for your help. 🙂

  3. It was like that for me with Glazier. But it’s published now and I’m thrilled. Kate Tate the editor was a Godsent. Good luck

    1. Debbie Johansson 01/12/2011 — 12:20 am

      Hi Bri. Congratulations on getting your book published. Thank you so much for posting – you’ve given me hope! 🙂

  4. I’ve got one of those too it’s really messy, but it’s actually hubby’s favorite story. He shows no interest in the others and it’s the longest one I’ve written. I can’t seem to write beyond 10,000 words these days. So now and then I think of it longingly. You definitely ought to put it away and completely forget about it before getting it out again. I know I have lots of sub-plots to take out, but I’m afraid there won’t be enough words left. Good luck whatever you decide!

  5. Debbie Johansson 01/12/2011 — 12:17 am

    Hi Catherine. I think this will be one of those ones where I will have to work on it a little bit at a time Thanks for your comments – it’s good to know I’m not the only one feeling like this!

  6. I’m with you all the way!

    I’m still tweaking with, poking at, and messing up the pages of my first “real” novel. It was the first complete story I finished and it was an utter-God-awful mess. It’s scads better now but occasionally I wonder the same thing as you – when is enough, enough?

    I set aside new manuscripts to go back and nudge the old one. Sometimes I beat it with a stick just to see if that makes a difference. It doesn’t. I can’t…won’t let it go because it’s a story I still want to tell. Mine isn’t even autobiographical. The characters just speak to me so much I want to share it with others but I know it isn’t ready. It gets closer with each revision and it benefits from the lessons I learn writing new material.

    In the end, I think it’ll be good, because I can’t believe otherwise. So, to answer your question and steal a couple of lines from the movie, The Mexican, when is enough, enough? Never.

  7. Debbie Johansson 04/12/2011 — 10:51 pm

    Hi Lesann. Yes, this sounds so familiar! It’s can be so darn frustrating working on something for so long – trying different methods until finding that particular one that is finally ‘it’. The work constantly stews in the back of your mind while working on other projects, but I believe that time is the best thing for these particular WIPs.

    I agree with you that you believe it will be good in the end – having faith in your own work is a positive step towards publication. Best of luck with it! 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close