Wednesday 21 November 2018

Reviving a manuscript

Should you ever try to revive an old manuscript?

When you have been in the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme as long as I was, it is inevitable that you have a lot of  old manuscripts in the drawer - and I mean a lot. Most of them will stay there. One or two might have possibilities if I have time on my hands and plenty of patience. Hah! But there are two I definitely want to go back to. Funnily enough, neither of them are finished. Maybe not so funny - is that the appeal? Unfinished business?

The first is an historical - a Georgian romantic suspense submitted as a partial MS that was my very last NWS submission before I was published - with  a contemporary in the same genre. It got a good report and I would have gone on with it, but then publication happened and it went off to that bottom drawer with the others. I wrote it for fun, but since then it has stayed with me, and ideas for making it a series that will connect to something contemporary have been growing, so I definitely think it is worth another look.

The other one was my first attempt at a contemporary romantic suspense. It got quite a good report. I was usually told I could write, which was encouraging, but there was an awful lot that was wrong. I think, looking back, it suffers from a common fault of inexperienced writers - there are two stories in there fighting with each other, or maybe a story and a half. Too many good ideas and not enough space to put them. It started with a Romeo and Juliet story of young love and tragedy and then resumed with the lovers 15 years later. My reader wasn't happy about that - I remember the comment that the heroine in particular was too young and that her mother was more interesting and the way it was written a reader could easily assume she was the heroine  ... And so on.

I decided to start a new novel rather than try to unpick that one, and I know the next attempt went a lot better - I think it may have eventually turned into Out of Sight Out of Mind, but I'm not sure.

The unfinished manuscript still came back into my mind now and then - there were a lot of things I liked about it and the hero, Luke, was one of my favourites. I can't remember the name of the heroine, but her mother was called Nadine - which might give some credence to the comments of my NWS reader ...I half promised myself I'd  have a look at it again, to try and get out the book that was lurking in the undergrowth. Simplify the story - turn it round so the R&J bit was a flashback interlude - possibly give it a new villain. Or a new motive. And probably get rid of the heroine's mother! She might get her own story in quite a different book.
One day ...

I've been using scrap paper to write on lately and a couple of the pages, when I read them, turned out to be old drafts of that book. I was surprised how good the dialogue still sounded. And I still fancied Luke ... And then I heard a scientific programme on the radio that gave me a lead on a plot point that had been a stumbling block that I hadn't entirely resolved, which I am now researching, and the book is now back on the table.

It will take some work and it's not going to happen soon, but I am certainly promising myself I will have a go. 

And the motto of the story? Never throw anything away.

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