Friday, August 8, 2014

Manuscript Partials and Other Stuff Found in Bottom Drawers by Roz Denny Fox


 
 
The other day I got in a cleaning frenzy—I know, hard to believe. My problem is that I’m a saver. I stack things that come in the mail and think one ad or another might come in handy one day—most never do. But this discussion isn’t about kitchen countertops, but about a pair of two-drawer lateral filing cabinets I have in my office. I should have cleaned them out three years ago when I moved. All I did was pack the folders in boxes and stuck them back in the cabinets once my office furniture arrived. Then of course I had a lot of unpacking, so cleaning out file folders was left for another day, which turned into years. Overtaken by this frenzy I mentioned, last week I started going through file drawers.

Am I alone in having kept a stack of first 3 chapters and synopses that got rejected? I’m sure at the time there was pain involved in tucking them out of sight since I was already published. Now I look at them, at the dates (mid to 90’s) and my first thought is how did I ever think I had what it took to be a “real” writer? Now with the passage of time I wanted to see again reasons why these “gems” got turned down. And I’m sharing them:

1.    Too many minor characters involved in the plot.

2.    Too much going on outside of the main character’s romance.

3.    Too much of the hero’s point of view.

4.    This heroine has the upper hand too often.

5.    The plot seems too complicated for a series romance.

6.    Lively characters but the emotional barriers fall too quickly.

I can smile now, because I paper-clipped to some of these failures, sheets from workshops, such as: Plot Motivations, and Defining Plot, and The Joy and Rapture of Writing. (Ha, now that made me laugh out loud)

Some notes I’m still keeping are those from a workshop titled: If You Write, You’re A Writer.

I obviously believed that, because my file cabinets overflow with many notes on every topic from “Knowing what you want to write”, to “Selling what you write”, to “Promoting the book you’ve sold.”

On another folder I have a note to myself that says: “The sky is the limit. My only limit is in my own imagination. Don’t be afraid to break new ground. And remember: As soon as you start worrying about what other people think about your ideas, you’re limiting your creativity.”

I found other truisms well worth keeping and sharing.

1.    “Writing may be solitary, but publishing is people intensive.”

2.    “The Key to Success: Write More!”

3.    “You can’t fix what isn’t on the page.”

4.    “You have to complete a book to have written a book.”

5.    “Resist the urge to polish your work to death.”

I’m sure I have a great many more snippets of wisdom stuffed away, but I got bogged down reading all of tidbits I just listed. Then, of course, I stopped to write this blog, and guess what—I’m over my cleaning frenzy. Who knows what I may find on another day. Do any of these things sound familiar to you?

27 comments:

  1. Roz, if we lived closer to each other, I would gladly offer to help you clean and organize. It seems you have many pearls of wisdom among (or clipped to) your files! Whatever your process was to get you to publication and beyond, it certainly worked, as I love your books!

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  2. I love your truisms, Roz! So...true :)!

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  3. I have a couple of file drawers like that. It's a wooden file cabinet, so it's tempting to leave a note that says "burn without opening"!

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  4. Great truisms! Especially #3...I keep telling myself, You can't edit what you haven't written!

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  5. Oh, you made me laugh. I keep everything too. I kept a rejection letter from an agent who simply wrote the word no on my query to her agency and then sent it back to me (snail mail days).
    And as for all this stuff that winds up in my kitchen. Now that we're doing a remodel, I'm having to learn how to throw things away. Perfectly good things!

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  6. I hate to admit that I have whole novels written in longhand and on old fashioned typewriters. I hate to think what they are like

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  7. Love all your truisms. Good thing you didn't throw all that away, there'd be no blog post today if you had ;)

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  8. Roz-based on some of those reasons for rejection-I wonder if those books might be bestsellers now, especially 'too much hero POV' and 'the heroine having the upper hand too often' lol:) Sounds like a great story to me lol:)
    I've said it before-I would love to go through your older WIPs as I'm sure there are gems in there!
    I kept the first hand-written version of the first draft of 'Mistletoe Bachelors'-my first full length. I love looking at it-it has napkins and till tape, parking receipts, etc stuffed in between the actual pages with parts of the story written on them lol.
    Great post! And again, I'm so happy that we had the opportunity to meet at RWA. xo

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  9. All those rejections sound like something a forward-thinking editor could have worked with. I think a lot of good work gets lost because it's such a personal process and what you love one day you might hate the next because of the complexities affecting your feelings and attitude - I'm sure that happens to editors, too. We have to keep all those rah-rah notes around or we'd never survive. I don't save much anymore - no space.

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  10. I have a file folder entitled "Darn Good Books I Never Sold." They are probably filled with the type of errors you mentioned! :)

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    1. Dana, this made me chuckle. I hardly have anything printed out on paper anymore, which is why Roz' post made me blink: seriously? Roz, you have manuscripts in files? I feel almost radical...

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  11. Ahhh! All of these seem to apply to the two proposals I'm sending out. Doesn't sound like good news to me but oh so helpful of you to post them, Roz, so I can avoid these pitfalls in the future!

    Here are the mistakes I know I've made:
    1. Too much going on outside of the main character’s romance.

    4. This heroine has the upper hand too often.

    5. The plot seems too complicated for a series romance.

    6. Lively characters but the emotional barriers fall too quickly.

    For me, the biggest thing I always hear is increase the stakes, heighten the conflict. Sometimes, as a newcomer, I think, isn't the romance enough... but it's not. We need that tension in the story to pull the reader through. I don't know when, or if, I'll ever master that one. I suspect it will be a lifelong battle that I will keep soldiering through :)

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    1. If it's any comfort - a lot of that is in the book I'm revising right now. And this is book 91 for me. I think all of us - editors and writers alike, are after what's best for the book. But we come from different perspectives. Or I'm a really slow learner.

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  12. To all of you ladies who have commented. I was almost afraid to post the blog because no one likes to admit our failures. But all failures are good life lessons. It took me a long time to figure that out. Liz, you made me laugh about a file cabinet marked to burn without opening. I haven't finished cleaning out mine. I may let my kids dispense with what's left some day.

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  13. Oh, Roz, it's such a relief to know I'm not the only one who keeps long-ago pages of inspiration that probably won't be viewed again for another 20 years -- but you sure saved some gems!

    We've told our son that someday when he's in charge of dismantling the house, he should just set fire to the garage -- because nobody would EVER want to go through all the notes in there. :)

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    1. Laurie, You and Liz envision your gems of wisdom going up in flames. I think about shredding mine. That probably means I'll need a dump truck.

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  14. Roz, you just wrote the story of my life! I wrote my first story when I was 12 and I still have it in a box at my parent's house (and they keep asking, "can we toss out that box of stuff?")

    I love your blog and plan to print it out and put it in my pile of Inspirational Blogs I've Read as opposed to Inspiration Blogs I Want to Read...

    Thanks for posting this.......Rose

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  15. Rose, You need to save the story you wrote when you were 12. That needs to go in a scrapbook, or memory book.

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  16. Roz, This post made me fall over laughing. I so have done the very same thing. I too laughed at the cabinet to burn. And I laughed at Mel's comment. Yes, we do have printed manuscripts. In fact I have mine in boxes in the shed that say shred if I die. I mean, whoever has to go through all this stuff if I don't get round to it will be thankful. lol But then I can't bear to toss it now. Really???? Oh this is just making me laugh. Thanks Roz

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  17. Roz, it reminds me of going through old photo albums and thinking, why did I keep that picture of me with spinach between my teeth? I do the same thing you do, and mostly with papers. Old manuscripts, old workshop notes, old rejectin letters. What's so important on a paper that I have to keep it for over a decade?. Even the IRS doesn't require that. No answer comes promptly. We must be peas in a pod. Very cute blog.

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  18. And yet, none of us can be considered hoarders, right? I've seen some TV programs where people can't walk through their homes for all that they save. I really thought I had pared down a lot when I moved here. Ha--it was wishful thinking.

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  19. Roz, Enjoyed your post. I've been doing the same thing, cleaning out files of writing stuff. The save pile is much larger than the toss pile. I'm such a pack rat, but yet I don't consider myself a hoarder, either. Unfinished and unsold stories and novels that I don't want to give up, thinking that eventually I'll have time to finish or rework them. Worksheets and notes from classes I've taught and those I've taken. We writers leave quite a paper trail!

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  20. Oh, some true gems for us. For today, I am savoring “Resist the urge to polish your work to death.” Thanks Roz!

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  21. It must have been something in the Arizona wind we get during the monsoon season. I've been going through manuscripts, as well.

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  22. As someone who just moved state 2 weeks ago, this post really resonated with me. We finally empied a box that had moved--still packed with the same stuff--from Santa Barbara to Albuquerque to Tallahassee to Tucson and now to San Diego. Felt so good to take the box cutter and make that thing go flat! :-) We downsized a lot, gave away half of our stuff and not one of the family has missed a thing.
    This is a good reminder to go through the files on the computer too. I've a file labled Clutter Dump where all the articles and interesting websites that I'm going to get to "one day" are in. I should just delete the whole thing.

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  23. Make time for people, not stuff. I read that a couple of months ago. The less stuff you have to take care of, the more time you have to spend with the people you love.

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  24. Shannon, you are so right on about getting rid of clutter. My problem was I could never decide what I might someday need and what was clutter. I love to watch Suzy Orman. Her mantra is: "people first, then money, then things" So your "make time for people, not stuff" fits right in. I can tell you we miss you in Tucson, but hope your move to San Diego ends up being perfect for your beautiful family.

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