How To Know When To Let It Go

I like to think when a writer sits down to start that very first manuscript, they believe this work, this first foray into the writing world is going to be THE ONE. I like think you have to at least believe that each one of your works could be THE ONE, otherwise why would you be writing it, but that first one and beginning of the journey you and your hopeful future readers are about to embark on is special. You believe this is a story that needs to be told, and YOU, you fabulous creative machine, are the only one who can tell it.

You write and edited and rewrite and reedit and rerewritedit until you’re staring bleary eyed at a final draft that you think is THE ONE. Really THE ONE – a shimmering little Word Bird that’s ready to be let free into the untamed Wilds of Publishing and hopefully find it’s way to the perch of a some lucky Agent’s windowsill.

But what if fickle winds take that little Word Bird fluttering wayward from the path you thought it would follow. What happens when you come to the conclusion that it might not have been time for that particular Bird to fly free. It’s still has a full plumage of wonderful words and its song is one you still want to hear sung to the world, but perhaps the winds are not right at this moment to carry the song.

I think I might have come to that point with my first manuscript, OF FATES CONVERGED. I had the story of FATES in my head for many years, but never knew what to do with it until one day I decided to plop my butt down in front of a computer and do the damn thing. Writing a novel was a much more challenging task that I ever imagined it would be, but three or so years later I had my first manuscript finished.

My first 180,000 word manuscript.

Aubrey Plaza Dinosaur

180,000 is really long for any novel, let alone the first one. But this was THE ONE. Surely it would be able to buck conventional wisdom and publishing norms, because this was THE ONE. So I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC a couple years ago to pitch this behemoth of a book. I thought I had the hottest manuscript this side of FARENHEIGHT 451 and rolled up into that conference fell all like this:

Rollins Laugh

Only to get a response from agents there that was a little something like this:

Troy Stare

Okay, they were nicer than that, but it became very apparent that this book was too damn long and the prologue I thought was really sweet was really probably not that sweet at all and that starting your novel with the main character waking up and describing herself in the mirror is not the way to go. Right. Of course. I probably should have known that already.

THE ONE needed a little (re: a lot) more work. Another year of edits, completely rewriting whole sections, including the beginning (a ton of help from Shauna in culling FATES down to a somewhat respectable word count) and I was ready to start querying.

And query I did. Few partials here and there, but not a ton of interest over about six months. This was a good book, I knew it was, but the thing is after all the edits and changes and everything, it was only half the book I had finished two years ago. THE ONE had become THE HALF. It was literally a third of the book it once was, as I’d take 60,000 words off to get it down to somewhat queryable 120,000. But there were still a lot of problems – no big hook, slow to get to the action, all the stuff you really don’t a book to be when you have basically a cover sheet and 10 pages to snag an agent with.


It wasn’t really that bad, but about 3 months ago I thought maybe it was time to shelve FATES and focus on the new manuscript I’d been working on the last year. A vast majority (like all of them) of the mistakes I made with FATES my own fault. I really should have done the research about how the industry works before deciding IMMA WRITE THIS BOOK HOWEVER I WANT CUZ THATS WHAT I WANT. But it wasn’t all for nothing, not even close. The experience of being part of the writing community the last couple of years, especially through Twitter, has been incredible and so eye-opening in terms of just how publishing really works and the amount of amazing people who are in it that just want to help each other out.

And that’s kind of what I’ve taken away from this experience so far. The majority of people I’ve come to know in the publishing and writing community just want to either tell good stories and find ways to make those stories seen by as many people as possible.

Some good stories just have to wait until the time is right for them to fly. But until then, you might just have to…

Let it go gif

(I was hoping to find a Let It Go gif that wasn’t just Elsa from the movie, but you failed me, Internet. Awesome hair swirl, though.)

So, my friends. what experiences have you had in letting that one manuscript go and was it ever able to finally find its own wings?

4 thoughts on “How To Know When To Let It Go

    1. Yup, it’s a really tough decision to make, but there really isn’t anything easy about writing and publishing is there? Glad you like my gif choices, picking out amusing ones is my favorite part of writing these posts. 😀

  1. Kristin McFarland says:

    I could’ve written this post, buddy. My first book was huge — 235,000 words long.

    Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.

    I never even reached the querying stage. I started to read it, saw the main character look in the mirror, saw the jumps in POV, saw all the things, and decided it needed to be rewritten, not edited. I chose to work on something else entirely. I think we’ve all been through this, and more than once. Years later, I still tend to feel like every book is going to be The One, and then it just ends up being another one — no capital letters. It’s a bummer.

    Whoa, this comment got real, didn’t it?

    1. I feel like if you didn’t think every book didn’t at least have the potential to be THE ONE, then you wouldn’t start it in the first place. It is a bummer having to shelve a book you really believed in for sure, but I like to hope that it’ll get another chance some day.

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