Re-writing a manuscript: Stick with it or let it go?


I’ve been writing my Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy for years.  Yes, I said years.  I started a long time ago, mainly as a passing fancy.  Then, something happened in 2003 and I knew in my heart and soul I had to finish it.

I also knew it would have to be three books; otherwise I would have one, 300,000 word novel.  Big NOT.  I wrote here and there, working on all three novels when the urge hit me, but came to an abrupt halt about a year later.  It wasn’t working.  My writing was lacking that umph.  I needed help.

I began to read young adult books and fantasy books with a passion.  I also began to research the publishing world.  I found out that agents and publishers wanted stand alone books in trilogies or in a series, meaning they had to be complete unto themselves, even though the story continued.  Back to the drawing board.

I continued to write when I could find time between taking care of a family and working full-time.  I joined an online writer’s group out of the UK – YouWriteOn.com and began getting feedback.  With the critiques came praises along with a few slaps in the face.  The slaps in the face were the ones that woke me up to the problems, while the praises kept me motivated.  I have to admit I almost gave up, especially after a critique partner told me I should let the story go to its grave.  “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s better to let it go than continue trying to resurrect the damn thing.”

Let it go?  Was he crazy?  This was my baby…the novel closest to my heart.  I’d written others.  They’re gone now, lost, destroyed.  This wasn’t my first attempt…but it was the first time I felt so passionate about the need to tell this story and get it published.

After I lost my job in 2010, I focused on nothing but my writing.  I set myself a goal, found a few great beta readers, and off I went to finish In the Shadow of the Dragon King. Exactly one year later, almost to the date of setting my goal, I submitted my novel to a publisher.  I knew it wasn’t perfect but I’d polished it the best I could.  With bated breath I waited.  And waited.  Three weeks later I got a response.  The message:  it needs work, but we’d love to see you resubmit if you decide you want to make the enclosed changes.

When I opened my attached manuscript, it was bleeding.  A lot.  I mean, it was mortally wounded.  I got a hold of one of my trusted beta partners and sobbed.  When I got over the pain of being kicked in the gut, she and I went over the comments and changes.  We both realized I had a goldmine in my hand.  A publisher took a lot of time to go through my manuscript, page by page, line by line, and tell me what was wrong with it, what I needed to fix, and if I decided to make the changes, to resubmit.

That was eleven months ago.  Life got in the way during that time, slowing down my momentum to re-write.  I have a month and a half to finish my revisions and send it back by the ‘not exactly a rejection’ anniversary date.  Should I stick with it or let it go?  I’m definitely sticking with it.

Have you ever had a project you almost gave up on only to be glad you didn’t?

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18 thoughts on “Re-writing a manuscript: Stick with it or let it go?

  1. I’ve finished some stories or not finished and let them go but I ma go back to them, sometimes I just need a break. I hope you finish your revision soon, sounds like it could be something wonderful!

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  2. You should definitely stick with it; I mean if the publisher went to the trouble of red-penning it, then they obviously saw something of value 😀

    Good luck with the re-submit 😀

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  3. I’ve been tinkering with my first novel for four years, so I know how you feel! I’ve thought about letting it go more than once, but I just can’t do it. I believe too much in the story and that’s all I need to keep going!

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  4. If you really believe in your work, it’s worth shedding a few tears over to get it published. I waited ten years to get my acceptance. You’re moving along much faster than that! Keep at it. It will all be worth it in the end. 🙂

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  5. Good for you.

    Dragon King is a great story, and it deserves to be read. I totally understand, though. I’ve set my own “masterpiece” aside for a while so I can start something new. I totally intend to go back to it though. At the moment, though I need a break.

    Sometimes you need a longs break so you can go back to something with a new set of eyes.

    If anything, it gave me something to pick apart on-line for about for about eight months. For that alone, it will always have a special place in my heart.

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  6. I think there is a point to give up on an MS, but clearly this is not that MS! If you’ve had the passion to work on it so long, you won’t fall now. Well done, and good luck with the revisions!

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  7. What an amazing success story! I say that because that’s exactly what it is. An unbridled success story. The story you describe is probably the best result any writer pursuing mainstream publication can hope for, the best-case scenario! To submit your first manuscript and get that kind of response is practically unheard-of. I both dream about and dread having that exact same experience, knowing that it’s the literary equivalent of the brass ring, akin to hitting a grand slam home run on the day you are called up for the first time from the minors in your first at-bat on an 0-1 count. (I know that’s a rather convoluted analogy, but the more you analyze it, the more I think you’ll like it. *lol*).
    I dread submitting my manuscript and seeing it come back bleeding changes. It would feel like I sent my progeny out into the world hoping it will be safe only to see it come back mortally wounded, with me feeling a need to vigorously defend and preserve it, all the while trying to keep in mind the positive meaning that it really is, that someone has read my work and believes in it enough to want to publish it with their name on it and at their expense. Is there any greater affirmation than that?

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    1. There really isn’t, Tristan. I think this one initially hurt more than all the other flat out rejections (not that I’ve had a lot of those) because it’s so dear to my heart. This is my “Gone with the Wind”, my “Dragon’s Heart”…my “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. All of those novels took the authors over ten years to write – Tolkien more than 16 – but they never gave up. Once I put my pride out of the way and realized what I had in my hand, I felt like the richest author in the world. There was something about it that kept the publisher reading. I captured their attention. When I realized that, I started to have a bit more confidence in my novel.

      It is getting better every day. I keep finding parts I want to make better, and I know I’ll have to soon kiss it good-bye and send it on it’s way. I just want to be sure this time around, it really is the best it can be.

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  8. I was ready to give up on the ms that 3 editors have now . . . I was trying desperately to finish my next novel before a conference but didn’t and I knew I couldn’t pitch an unfinished ms, so I pitched the one I thought I was done with . . . and they all ended up requesting it:)

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