Day After Month After Year After Story After Book

The best thing I ever did as a writer was to move on.

I had struggled with the same manuscript for five years. It was my life. My master work (or so I thought). I couldn’t let go. I wrote a first draft and revised it. Then I joined a critique group and restarted the book again. The new version was even better. Then I went to the Big Sur Writing conference, I realized my protagonist had no backstory. No emotion. Back to page one.

I rewrote that manuscript again. From scratch. Entirely new plot. Things were going well. Both my critique groups grooved on it. Ten months later, I began revising. When I sent out queries, I received two requests for a full manuscript.

Then the hammer fell. One agent gave me a great critique. Trouble was, I agreed with it. My character was true. The premise worked. But the plot was convoluted and the story sagged in the middle.

I had a choice. I could revise that story yet again. I even had a plan for what to fix. But I asked myself: “Am I going to be the sort of writer that reworks the same story over and over again?”

No.

I’m done with this book. Let me write a better one.

And I did. When I finished that book, I was tempted again. This time with revisions to the new book. Now I’ve made the choice to move on again. Write another book.

It reminds me of a quote from Harlan Ellison:

The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer. Day after month after year after story after book.

I plan to live as a writer, and that means writing. Better and better books.

Tim Kane

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2 comments on “Day After Month After Year After Story After Book

  1. Julie says:

    I love this post, Tim. I feel lucky to have learned this lesson back in my days of trying to write short stories because I believed that you had to do that first before you wrote novels (they don’t come naturally to me). I can’t imagine learning this with novel, but I do think it’s one of the harder lessons for a writer, and one that many don’t ever learn.

  2. It’s true, there are just some stories you must leave behind, especially early works. I have two novels collecting dust because my writer’s group had so many major problems with it. I still re-visit them once in awhile, but the fact is, they will probably remain on the shelf forever. Fortunately, my failures helped me improve as a writer and I finally got published. The problem now is, will I be able to match that ‘genius’ and improve on it so the next book will be just as good if not better? I guess only time and effort will tell.

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