Agency Lessons: Let it go

Now that we all have Idina Menzel stuck in our heads, let's talk about manuscripts.

If you ask any author, they'll tell you about that one manuscript they can't let go of. Maybe it's the first book they wrote or maybe the one they felt was their first really viable piece. Or it could be just a storyline that won't stop talking to them. Whatever the cause, everyone has a manuscript that hasn't been published, but we really wish it could be.

There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, I think it can be helpful to pull these trunked novels out every once in a while. Not only can they remind us of that fiery passion that made us love writing in the first place, they can also help us grow as authors. We can see where the flaws are even as we love every word.

The problem arises when we refuse to actually trunk the novel. I'm not talking about giving up on it completely, but at least setting it aside enough to move forward.

I bring this up because during this contest season I saw several manuscripts that I know have been around for a while. These are pitches I've seen in multiple contests, in my own query box or in others'. There's no way I remember every name that comes through my inbox, but I do remember the pitches. Just ask my fantastic host from the last DFW conference. She was telling someone else in our group about her manuscript and I mentioned that it sounded very familiar. It was then that she admitted she had queried me just a few months back. Trust me, we remember.

And that works against you. You may have polished up that manuscript and made it all kinds of shiny new. But as an agent judging a contest, if I know I've already seen the pitch, I'm going to pass. So as you bring out the same story year after year, your chances of getting interested grow smaller and smaller.

I'm not saying that when a manuscript makes the rounds of query boxes and contests without an offer that you have to hide it in a drawer and never look at it again. But you do need to set it down.

But if you aren't moving on and writing more manuscripts, you aren't growing as a writer. You aren't pushing yourself and expanding your reach, discovering what you're capable of. I worked for 18 months writing a story I loved. I spent another 6 months editing it and making it so pretty. And it is garbage. Seriously, nothing is salvageable. I could have spent years working to get it into shape. Instead, I started writing something else and now that book, Rite of Rejection, is out there in the real book world.

By all means, pull that manuscript out between drafts or when you need to clear your head between projects. But then close the folder and set it aside. Give yourself permission to own a draft that isn't ready and still writing something new. We you allow your creative brain to consider other stories, you never know what you're going to get.