That’s a frustrating feeling. I’ve spent months working on this book, agonizing over it, pouring my heart into it. Having to face the fact that something doesn’t work about it frankly sucks. Having to face that I don’t know what doesn’t work – or how to fix it – is enough to make me want to hide under my desk, crying and clutching a wine bottle.
It’s a disheartening experience, but I’d rather keep the book under wraps than send it out into the world before its ready. This happened with the first novel I ever finished, too. That book - a meandering mess of head-hopping, scenes with no connection to advancing the story, and many, many other rookie mistakes – is still on my hard drive. I know that book has too many issues to make it salvageable and I’m okay with that. Writing it was an amazing learning experience. Actually finishing a manuscript for the first time was a huge watershed moment for me. It took years to get that far, so I was proud of the book even though I knew it would never be published.
Figuring out when to let go of a book is an important lesson for a writer to learn. It’s a hard lesson, too. Instead of just “killing your darlings,” you’re basically killing a whole book, or at least that’s what it can feel like. Some books just don’t need to see the light of day. Letting go allows you to move on to the next book and utilize everything you’ve learned.
Sometimes a manuscript just isn’t ready for prime time. You can read it over and see the potential practically hovering in the air between you and the screen (or page). But the book’s not quite right yet. As much as you love your book baby, you need to learn to recognize when they need more time to grow and not send them out into the world too early. That’s what I’m doing with my superhero novel. I’m going to let it sit for a while, work on other things, and then go back to it. Because I know there’s a good story there, I just need to figure out how to make it reach its full potential. It’s frustrating but I’m no longer discouraged by this happening because I know it’ll be a better book if I hold on to it for now.
Do you have any finished manuscripts sitting on your hard drive because they don’t need to see the light of day? Do you have any that had to stay under wraps because they weren’t quite ready yet, and if so, how long did it take you to get them ready?