Thursday, June 4, 2009


Savannah Bird Girl

The Devil in Manuscript: Nathaniel Hawthorne

"I do believe," said he, soberly, "or, at least, I could believe, if I chose, that there is a devil in this pile of blotted papers.”

I was having a conversation with my online author friend Galen Kindley, and the topic of abandoned manuscripts came up.

Does everyone have a book graveyard at their house? Either a manuscript that they gave up on (or got disgusted with) or a novel they bought and intended to read until it started dragging in the early chapters?

Even Samuel Clemens had an abandoned work-in-progress: a nonfiction book on England that he was trying to write at the same time as Tom Sawyer. Can you imagine? Writing Tom Sawyer would be draining enough.

Sometimes I’ll wonder if I’ll ever go back to these rusty old projects of mine. I’m thinking no. Maybe the original idea was a good one—I know it must have been one that I was originally excited about, or I wouldn’t have started writing. But at some point I realized it stunk. I hate to put it so bluntly, but there it is.

What made Samuel Clemens give up? Did he read another author’s fabulous account of England and realize his came up lacking in comparison? Did he just take on too much at one time? Was he more excited about his Tom Sawyer WIP (who wouldn’t have been?)

Here's what made me give up on the projects in my graveyard:

My protagonists didn't have "it." They simply weren't interesting enough to carry a story.

The plot didn't have a hook. It was too derivative of similar books in that genre.

I'd written myself into a huge hole. I do this with other books, but can always write my way out of them. But with these books, I was so disgusted with the WIP by that point that I let my protagonist live eternally in my plot hole.

Do you have a manuscript graveyard?

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