On Trunking a Novel

Circa 1850s Gold Rush Stagecoach TrunkAs the lazy months of summer come to an end, I become possessed with a crazed urge to clean/purge/organize ALL THE THINGS before the chaos of the school year starts. Usually I focus on the kids’ rooms and their shared study area, but this year I had time to focus on my home office. One of the jobs I decided to tackle was the organization of my notes/binders/folders devoted to The Fallen Princess, my young adult fantasy novel.

For all intents and purposes, I was done with The Fallen Princess in the fall of 2012. I gave it a good run: I rewrote it five times (not revised, rewrote), sent out lots of queries, and entered over a dozen contests. I had my share of requests and contest finals, as well as some great feedback from my critique group. But after working on the novel for three years without landing an agent or a publishing house, I was done.

At that point, I couldn’t bear to look at it. Fortunately, other projects kept me busy and lessened the sorrow I felt at abandoning it. But two weeks ago, when my current revisions (on a different WIP) ground to a halt, my old novel called to me. “Take another look at me,” it said. “High fantasy isn’t such a hard sell anymore, now that A Game of Thrones is so popular. And there’s a bigger market for diverse, non-Western high fantasy than there used to be.”

I have to admit, I was tempted to resurrect The Fallen Princess. I had put so much time and energy into my world-building, with pages of notes and research and history. If I could rewrite the book yet again, maybe this time it would have a better chance. Maybe I wouldn’t have to start a new project from scratch.

But after I re-read the book, I realized why it failed. It wasn’t just a hard sell, but it suffered from slow pacing, large info-dumps, plot holes, and weak secondary characters. In the year and a half since I set it aside to work on other projects, I’ve learned much more about writing.

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For me, the best way I can grow as a writer is to start another book. This way I can incorporate everything I’ve learned, in terms of craft, and apply it to a new world and a new set of characters. Sometimes it takes a big leap to leave a familiar world behind, but in the end, I’ve never regretted any of the projects I’ve started.

So, for now, I’ve printed out a good copy of The Fallen Princess and put it in a nice binder. It’s sitting on my bookshelf, if I ever want to read it. But I won’t be rewriting it for the sixth time.

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9 Responses to On Trunking a Novel

  1. Such a tough decision! I’ve been there, Carla, and I know exactly how you’re feeling. The Princess may get her day in the sun yet, but for now, you’re right. It’s time to keep moving.

  2. J.K. Rock says:

    Hi Carla! It’s a brave and tough decision. I wrote a lot of books before I sold my first- an adult romance. I eventually went back and sold my backlist, but let’s say my first sale was my 7th book (I think that’s about right!)… i sold my sixth pretty quickly. I sold my fifth after light tweaking. Then the fourth and so on. It was years before I even tackled the first book or two, but I found those early stories- while the most superficially flawed– had tons of heart . The early books drove me to write and there was value there. They just required the most retooling to pull out what worked best within all that *didn’t.*

    Fallen Princess might still have it’s day, if only lending key scenes to a future book. In the mean time, it’s wonderful that you can see how much your skills have improved. Isn’t that a truly awesome feeling? – Joanne

    • casacullen says:

      Thanks, Joanne. I do like the feeling that I can spot the weaknesses in my book – things I was oblivious of before. And at some point, I might use the “world” of The Fallen Princess as a setting for a new fantasy novel.

  3. Chris Cannon says:

    I recently reread a christmas story I wrote years ago, thinking I might polish it up and send it out into the world. And, wow, it’s good to see my skills have increased over time, but I don’t think there’s a way to revise that sucker.

  4. Amy DeLuca says:

    Amen sistah! I’ve pretty much decided to do the same with my first novel, which was a Golden Heart Finalist this year! Sometimes, you just have to shed a tear and move on…
    Best of luck with your new projects! :)

  5. Tuere Morton says:

    Good for you! The 1st part of your post was the story of my life. After a while I just suffered from writer’s fatigue, if there is such a thing. I’m recently out and about again and remember how much I love blogging. Best of luck to you :)

  6. I feel this way about the first novel I queried seriously, affectionately known as CAVEBOY. Every once in a while I still wonder if I could go back to it and make it shine, but it would have to be a total rewrite for the very reason you stated–that I’ve learned so much since I wrote it. Maybe I could do that, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. It’s probably better to just chalk it up to lessons learned. It’s sad, though. That MS will always have a special place in my heart.

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