Does anyone else fear the manuscript graveyard, or is it just me?
If you boil the journey to publication down to it’s barest bones, here’s how it goes: write, submit, repeat.
Except . . . what happens when you get beyond that step? What do you do when one of your submissions comes back to you with a rejection letter (it DOES happen). Or worse, you get nothing back at all? It just got lost in the vacume of editor-space and the ghost is hovering on your hard drive . . .
How do you keep writing, keep submitting, keep repeating when the corpses of rejected stories keep piling up?
I mean, how sad is the thought that you just keep writing, pouring your blood, sweat and tears into these words, these bytes of consciousness, and they just come back to you to be buried?
Pretty fricking depressing, if you ask me. And my graveyard is growing . . .
So, I thought to myself, ‘this simply won’t do’.
Time to kick over those headstones, those mental blocks that tell me the story is pathetic and will never be published, and breathe some life back into these manuscripts.
If you’re thinking ‘I don’t want to spend time nursing a rejected story back to life, I just want to make the next one better’, trust me, I’m with you. BUT, there’s no reason that a little effort here and there won’t eventually cycle one of your older stories into the right hands, or effect just the right change to bring it back to life. Right? As writers, we have to have faith that we have something to say – something worth reading. Not everything will be our best, but it’s all worthwhile.
I haven’t tested this theory, but here is my plan:
In simple, baby steps, I’m going to convert my graveyard into a garden.
Now, a garden needs tending – pruning, weeding, watering – you get the idea.
1. Open up your ‘dead’ manuscript and read it through once – not with an editing eye, but with a reader’s eye. Ask yourself – do you still enjoy this story? If you have no idea what you were on about, or you just cringe – it might be a weed. We’re all sure to have a few of those. Put it in a ‘weeds’ folder and move on. DO NOT beat yourself up about it.
2. If you enjoy the story, if you still feel it – maybe it just needs pruning or watering. And by that I mean – does it drag, or is it incomplete? Can you trim it down (FYI – the answer is yes – you can always trim it down) and make your message/theme clearer? Or, does it really beg for a deeper explanation? Pay attention to the feedback you’ve received on it, if any, and try to be objective. Design a designator, like P for pruning, or W for watering, or just move the files into their prospective folders.
3. For each of the non-weeds, come up with at least 3 places where you could possibly ‘plant’ the story after its revision. There are TONS of possible homes out there, and if you’re actively submitting, you know where they are. 😉
4. Commit some time to your good seeds. Prune, water. Do what you have to do. Don’t drop everything you’re doing, but get it rolling in the background at a reasonable rate – one piece a month, or whatever works for you.
5. Get them out there! You’re garden won’t grow if you never plant it! Again, find a comfortable rate and stick to it. If you’re going to have one or two or ten submissions out there at a time, do it. Don’t let those corpses pile up. Keep revising, keep submitting. Keep tending your garden.
And keep the faith that your sunshine is just around the corner!