Friday, September 17, 2010

Old Manuscripts: Hidden Gems Within?

IN THE NEWS:Man listed dog as dependent in lunch scam. Read more HERE.

I remember having a discussion with a friend about first manuscripts. Needless to say, we had both shuddered when we thought about our own hidden away in our computer files. We put so much work and effort into what we had written then. And it would never see the light of day. Was it all a waste of time?

Well, deep down inside I know it's not. If you don't write, you don't grow as a writer. We all know that. So anything you've written builds onto your writing base and you learn from it.

But have you ever considered going back and really digging through it again?

Now, I'm not talking about trying to save your manuscript. (That's another topic) Not rewriting them to make them publishable. I'm talking about just looking for golden little gems in your writing that may have been missed in your mishandled plot or eighty-two pages of backstory.

I admit, I once thought there is NOTHING good in what I had written. But that changed.

My very first manuscript was aimed for one of the Harlequin lines. Unfortunately, it was like four or so years ago, so I really forget which line I was aiming for. But anyhow, I'll be honest when I say I had no idea what I was doing. Obviously the editors must have thought so too because what I received was not your standard rejection letter. It was more like a definite "we cannot use this", and they very kindly gave me a two page list describing all their different lines to me.


The manuscript was set in a pharmacy because somebody gave me the awful advice of "write what you know". Thus, the title was called DISPENSING WITH LOVE. (Because she was a pharmacist who dispensed medication but she also wasn't looking for love. Get it? Yeah, I know. It's terrible.)

Once I got the rejection, I tossed the mailed manuscript into the recycle bin and I thought, "Good riddance". Well, fast forward four years later, I decide to give it another go at writing a romance centered around a pharmacy. (I must be a glutton for punishment) About two chapters into writing my new romance I get a funny little idea of opening up my old manuscript to see if there was anything salvageable I could use for my new work in progress--or maybe I was just in the mood to laugh.


Well, I read it and--horror of all horrors-- still liked my opening. Only I decided to use that scene as part of my new second chapter. So I copied it and tweaked it and low and behold, I was happy with how it fit into the story. The new story was my recent release GEORGIE ON HIS MIND.



I can't tell you how satisfying it was to find and use a hidden gem of a scene from a prior work that I thought was dead and buried. But now I'm encouraged to go back to that manuscript and go digging again!



Have you ever decided to use parts of old manuscripts in your NEW work in progress? Was it successful?

34 comments:

Em-Musing said...

I believe any writing can be tweaked and used again. I always like the stories I wrote, but in my earlier writing, I just didn't have the craft of writing down yet.

Piedmont Writer said...

Oh that was such a cute title "Dispensing with Love" and a great premise.

I love it when I find stuff from my earlier writing to use now. I've always been a big recycler so when I can use it in my writing, it really makes me smile.

Nicole MacDonald said...

I agree with Piedmont Writer, I thought that title was so cute! And there is promise in everything - you just have to look deeper :)

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Laura Pauling said...

That's pretty cool! Not sure how often that happens. But sometimes with out first manuscript the spark can be there.

Jenna Wallace said...

I hadn't really thought about the difference between pulling out a dead story to try to resurrect it and pulling it out to use it as donor, so to speak. But I like it! Gives me hope that, as you say, a year of work is not wasted.

Stephanie Faris said...

I had some good ideas but the books were sucky to the core! I've tried completely rewriting based on the idea, but it never seems to work...

Liza said...

I do sometimes go back and read things I've written (not novels, short essays and the like) and find sentences and say: "Wow, I wrote that?" So there is hope for the future when I need to dredge the past.

Linda Kage said...

I plagiarize off myself constantly. But that's legal, right? I like to go back to old stories I know won't go anywhere and snitch a line here and there. I might have to try filching a whole scene someday and see how that goes over.

Great advice, thank you!

Justine Dell said...

Ouch--that rejection kinda stung from all the way over here! But it's in the past right? You've learned ton's since then!

I liked the original title. I think it's cute.

I haven't really written enough to use something I haven't got hope for, but I've got a book that is getting ready to be put in that catagory. I'm sure there's tons of little darlings from that story I can use somewhere else!

~JD

R.M.Gilbert said...

I'm not sure I've written enough since my first manuscript to go back and look for any gems. But I have gone back to see where I started and where I am now, which gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Someday, I will revisit my first story, at least I think I will. And hopefully I will find the good in it and put them to good use.

Awesome to know that Georgie On His Mind is somehow linked to that very first idea. It's really proof of writing coming full circle.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I have a couple finished manuscripts under the bed but I'm not willing to even pull them out to look at them again yet.

But you never know. Maybe someday I'll be brave and find a small nugget of use in one of them.

Joanne said...

Hm, I liked your idea of the pharmacist dispensing with love! Glad you were able to salvage some of it. I definitely have work that I'll go back to, this time from a different place in life, with more writing background, and see if I can rework the words.

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T. Anne said...

Hmm, I've done it both ways, I've dug up old treasures and inputted them into new MS"s and I've rewritten long forgotten MS's to make them shine the way I've always intended.

The novel Water For Elephants was 'mined' by the author from one of her previously unpublished works.

Summer Ross said...

Thats a great idea! I never once thought of doing it that way, and I have an almost complete 36 chapter novel, most of it hand written and half of it is partially typed...lol yeah its bad. But great idea...

Joanna St. James said...

cute but funny and they did give you something to help.
I have looked at my 1st rejection from 2 years ago and nope it cannot even donate an organ, It was just simply horrible luckily I have grown as a writer since then.

Laura Marcella said...

That's a great idea! Sometimes it's the wrong timing or the wrong story for what we write. We just need to find the right story for out words and characters. Good for you for "recycling" some of your old work!

cleemckenzie said...

There's a lot to be learned in those early attempts. My biggest problem in going back is how embarrassed I am that I thought the manuscript was ready to be sent out. Oh, well. Write and learn!

Carol Kilgore said...

Good for you. I've done this before, too. It's amazing.

Susan R. Mills said...

This is exactly why I save everything I write. You never know when it might come in handy.

Bossy Betty said...

Oh, don't tempt me. I loved those characters!!!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Yes! I am doing this now. BUT it turned out that I've learned so much since I first wrote it that everything had to go except for the setting. I loved the setting.

I think the key is willingness to dump what doesn't work and KILL those early darlings!

Amy DeTrempe said...

This makes me want to pull up those old stories and see what is hidden among all those newbie mistakes.

Terri Tiffany said...

How cool that you did that! I shudder as well when I think of actually going back and reading my old work. SOunds like yours may not have been so bad:)

Maria Zannini said...

I like "Dispensing With Love". It's clever.

Even when I chop up--I mean, edit my manuscripts, I start a file called deleted scenes. You never know when they'll come in handy.

Great story, Jennifer. It's win-win all the way.

Karen Lange said...

Not yet. Perhaps someday:)

Stephen Tremp said...

I've only self published one book with two WIPs. I have a junkyard that I store data dump from the first book and am using them for the second and third (its a trilogy I'm writing). So yes, I do save and use spare parts from my junkyard.

Stephen Tremp

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meyerprints said...

For all art and old print lovers,
Whether it is for decorating your interior, for a gift or simply for your own delight, you might want to check these few images by visiting our site at Meyer Antique Prints. Thank You!

Amateurs d'art et de gravures anciennes,
que se soit dans le but de décorer votre intérieur, de faire un cadeau ou de tout simplement vous faire plaisir, nous pensons que vous devriez regarder ces quelques images. en visitant notre site Meyer Antique Prints. Je vous remercie!



Disclaimer: If we have offended you by sending this to you by mistake, we apologize. Please reply 'NO' or 'Unsubscribe' to this email if not interested, so that we shall add you to our 'Do Not Contact Again' list.

meyerprints said...

For all art and old print lovers,
Whether it is for decorating your interior, for a gift or simply for your own delight, you might want to check these few images by visiting our site at Meyer Antique Prints. Thank You!

Amateurs d'art et de gravures anciennes,
que se soit dans le but de décorer votre intérieur, de faire un cadeau ou de tout simplement vous faire plaisir, nous pensons que vous devriez regarder ces quelques images. en visitant notre site Meyer Antique Prints. Je vous remercie!



Disclaimer: If we have offended you by sending this to you by mistake, we apologize. Please reply 'NO' or 'Unsubscribe' to this email if not interested, so that we shall add you to our 'Do Not Contact Again' list.

Lynn said...

Dispensing with Love--so funny, but made a lot of sense at the time I am sure. I'm always going back to old writings, or even just snippets created during a class creative writing prompt, to see if something will work in my new WIP.

Las Vegas Writer said...

I will never, never, never look at my first manuscript again. No. I refuse. It was TERRIBLE! So many problems. I think I would try to fix everything. I don't want to put myself through that. I'm glad you could use yours for a good purpose though!

PatriciaW said...

The title was cute. (Maybe some of us are a bit to kitschy?)

I have a few stories that won't let me alone. I'm a better writer now. I wouldn't try to salvage the originals, but either rewrite them, filling in whatever plot holes stopped me in my tracks before, or lifting the idea, as you did, into a new story.

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