When Gilda so kindly invited me to write a guest post for this blog, I asked what she’d like me to write about. She said that her blog was all about relationships, so I got to thinking and realized that most of my relationships are relatively simple:
Parents=Respect. Wife=Love. Children=Serve.
Not a lot of drama there. I know my place.
But I do have one relationship that’s full of conflicting emotions–love and hate, joy and sorrow, blah and blah–and that’s with the finished but rejected and forgotten work sitting on my hard drive — also known as my casket.
As a writer, I’ve had two scripts produced, a third is in development, and Simon & Schuster just published my first book, IDENTITY (hurrah!). To get to this point, I’ve written most days for the better part of the last decade. In that time, I’ve produced a total of five books and twelve scripts. Doing the math (subtracting my produced / published stuff from the rest) that leaves four books and nine scripts in my casket.
To give it a time value where…
1 Book = 9 months of work.
1 Script = 3 months of work.
…we’re roughly looking at 5 years of work, just sitting there on my hard drive. I know I’m not alone–all of my writing buddies have caskets, some smaller than mine, some bigger. We all have work that we were once hot for but, for whatever reason, abandoned. But should we have?
Writers have different reasons to write. Maybe they have an important story to tell, maybe they want to entertain, maybe they just enjoy the process, but I can’t think of anyone who sat down to write a book and said, “I’m going to write this book. It probably won’t be seen, but that’s OK, it’s going to be a great learning experience.”
In fiction, all first-time authors write on spec, which means most of us share the same hope / belief / whatever that when we finish the manuscript, it will be seen. And most of us fail more often than we succeed.
So we’re all gambling when we write–gambling with our time, gambling with our emotions. So what happens when it ends poorly? When no one bites? When you decide it’s not ready to self-publish? When you slowly forget about it (time heals all wounds, eh?) until one day, you’ve moved on, and you realize that you’ve buried that manuscript six feet under, and you’re never going to dig it up again? It just requires too much energy.
It happens a lot.
Writing on spec means that all of those months, all of that energy, might be for naught. It isn’t, of course. You’re learning along the way. You’re getting better, and getting better isn’t something that happens overnight. It usually takes multiple years, multiple books, multiple scripts. And during that time, you’re filling your casket.
Produce. Submit. Forget. Move on.
Produce. Submit. Forget. Move on.
Of course, some of those manuscripts you’re burying really do stink and there was a good reason why they didn’t get made or published. But some of them might be pretty good–at least elements of them. Maybe a side plot would make a terrific short story? Maybe a character would be perfect in a crime-thriller? Maybe a plot line works better in a different story idea? Maybe you just need a little distance to identify the pearl that got you working on it in the first place? Maybe, after burying it for a while, you’ll get that distance you need.
The point is, yes, publishers, agents and readers are looking for “your next big thing,” but you may have already written it. No one has to know that it’s been sitting on your hard drive for ten plus years–just make sure the dates are current and your characters aren’t listening to that “hip new band Nirvana.” A film I wrote called Give ’em Hell, Malone was rejected all over Hollywood. Five years passed, I’d long moved on, until a producer called me from out of the blue. He’d read it years earlier–what was going on with it? I drug it out, gave it a fresh rewrite and he got it made. I’ve read the same story from big name published authors. About how they came up with the idea / first draft for their latest best seller thirty years earlier, but they had only recently completed it.
It’s always enticing to move on to the next big idea, but we should also mine what we already have, as painful as revisiting those rejected and forgotten manuscripts can be. At one time, they were hot stuff … and you might just find that you buried them alive, not dead.
Mark Hosack is the writer of the new business thriller IDENTITY, published by Simon & Schuster. You can find out more about Mark and order his book at www.markhosack.com.
IDENTITY is on sale for just $1.99 until August 21st. Also, you can win a free Kindle or Nook Touch by entering our IDENTITY giveaway. Please sign up and help spread the word! The contest also ends August 21st.
And, you can read the first chapter of IDENTITY at: