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Topic of the Week - "Trunk" novels

Hi everyone, and thanks for not making fun of me for forgetting the TotW last week due to the long holiday weekend and convention-induced brain-deadedness.   ;-)

This week's topic came out of my own mind (or what's left of it).  It concerns those unpublished manuscripts we wrote before we received our first contracts.  Some of them deserve to see the light of day; some are what could more delicately be called, "valuable learning experiences."  I've heard them referred to as "trunk novels," because after they've made the rounds of rejection, they tend to be shoved away in a trunk or closet.

So my question is: how many of you, after receiving a contract, have attempted to publish your 'trunk' novels?  Any success? Did you submit them as is or revise them?  If the latter, how much work was needed--just a fresh coat of paint, or a complete dismantling and rebuilding?

Perhaps there's a point at which an old idea is an old idea, and no matter how much we tinker with the ancient manuscript, it's better just to move on and develop newer, fresher projects.  If the manuscript was rejected, maybe there was a reason.  Even if it wasn't rejected but merely abandoned, does it matter that it was written by a former version of you?

If there are any agents/editors watching, I would love to hear your input as well.  This goes for aspiring authors, too--do you plan to submit older finished projects in the event your current submission is picked up by a publisher? 

Leave your comments in the post, and as always, I'm looking for new topics, so send them to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com.

Have a great week!

--Jeri Smith-Ready

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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opportunemoment
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
I'm an unpublished and suspect that novel I'm working on at the moment is inevitably a trunk novel. I want to finish it, and I like it enough to perservere, and even to think that when it's finished and polished people will want to read it. But I have a definite feeling it's not going to be the one that gets me looked at. Springing it on editors later when they know me and might be inclined to help with the polishing seems like an OK long term plan.

I'll watch this thread with interest to see whether that's worked out for anyone else. :)
antonstrout
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm at the stage where I'm scared to open the trunk... I don't wanna hoist my early mediocrity on my agent and I don't wanna make mah own eyes bleed from teh suck.

However, that temptation to pull them out and try to do something with them IS pulling at me, but right now they'd just be a distraction from continuing to write the stuff that is actually selling...
swan_tower
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
I'd way I'm not going to try and publish any of my trunk novels, because to me, the ones that deserve that term are the ones I have consciously retired (for good reasons).

But I write pretty fast, and editors read pretty slow when you're unagented, so I completed six novels before selling one. Of those six: one sold, three I really really want to publish someday, one I would love to publish after I give it its second big rewrite, and one will never see the light of day. But my current publisher isn't looking for the type of thing I'm doing in the three I want to publish, so they're on hold until I reach a career point where branching out into those makes sense.

The trunk one . . . it could probably be revised into something worthwhile, but I just don't see the point. I don't love the idea enough to have any enthusiasm for putting in the kind of work that would require -- especially not when I have other ideas shouting and jumping up and down for my attention.
anywherebeyond
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
I'm not going to. I realize now just HOW much work it would take, how big of an autopsy it would be to get even a useful seed out of that first book, and it's not worth it to me. I love it, broken and flawed as it may be. It's okay with me if it's my ugly baby no one knows but me. It's still my baby.

-Saundra

Edited at 2008-06-02 02:36 pm (UTC)
yasminegalenorn
Jun. 2nd, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Good way of putting it!

Yasmine
irysangel
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
Trunkity Trunk Trunk
I have a special love/hate with my trunk novels.

I love them all. I hate them all. ;)

I tend to write pretty fast, so I have 8 sitting in the trunk, waiting for me to swing back around again. I'll probably never return to the first 4 at all, and consider them 'learners'. These would require a ground-up dismantling, a re-plot, and a lobotomy for a few of the characters. I'm not going to do it.

The other 4 I have a weird relationship with. I'll get a wild hair, pull it out and start revising...and then dump it again. I still like the concepts, but I don't like the execution. Maybe the POV is wrong, or it's missing a POV. Maybe the plot feels flimsy. Sometimes a character comes off awful on the page and I realize that nobody (including myself) wants to read about this jerk. *g*

Will I go back and revise the latter 4 for publication? Maybe. I think there's one or two that could be great, with the proper hacking-and-slashing. But my current projects hold my love, and new ideas are constantly budding, so I honestly think they'll stay in my trunk for good (unless I hit a really bad dry spell).

But I cannibalize bits out of the old novels all of the time, and I enjoyed the heck out of writing them...and I still love each and every one of them. Trunk novels are never a waste. They're just not ready for prime time. :)

- Jill Myles
swan_tower
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk
I'll probably never return to the first 4 at all, and consider them 'learners'.

Interestingly, my Truly Trunk Novel was my third. Doppelganger was my second, and my first is one of the ones I really want to sell. It got a massive rewrite about two years before I broke through, but it was a rewrite of execution, not of idea; the concepts and even plot stayed more or less the same.

Sounds strange until you realize the last basic skill I mastered was the ability to finish things. I had the fundamentals of plot and character and so on down long before I got the hang of telling a complete story.

Also weird, though -- and a little depressing -- to realize that one's progression as a writer isn't necessarily always uphill; your next book is not necessarily better than your last. Actually, the worst novel I've ever written was the original draft of the fourth book; I rewrote it from scratch almost immediately, and it's still the one that needs another overhaul.
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk - irysangel - Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk - swan_tower - Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk - irysangel - Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk - swan_tower - Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Trunkity Trunk Trunk - janni - Jun. 3rd, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(Deleted comment)
swan_tower
Jun. 2nd, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
Letting career considerations guide you isn't a bad way to go, imho. If one of them is in a genre your editor really likes, or seems a good follow-up to something you've done more recently, then it might be a good idea to dust them off and do some revision. Otherwise, maybe the new ideas are the way to go.
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(Deleted comment)
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(no subject) - opportunemoment - Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
charleneteglia
Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Ah, great topic
After I sold my second and third novels, I heavily revised my first and sold it, too. I have several old partials that I'm perfectly content to abandon forever, though, because a. I don't write like that anymore; my style has shifted and b. it's too much freaking work to revise something old when I could just write something new, and it'd be better.
patricemichelle
Jun. 2nd, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Ah, great topic
I agree about the "too much work to revise, easier to start from scratch" statement. I wonder too if that's because our writing styles HAVE changed so much that it's like herding cats to get the "old" ms into the kind of order you'd like to see it in based on how you write now?

Re: Ah, great topic - charleneteglia - Jun. 2nd, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
patricemichelle
Jun. 2nd, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
I only have one full manuscript and one full novella sitting on my hard drive. The full ms needs an entire overhaul and the novella is a great paranormal story that just needs to be edited but I've been too busy on other projects to work on it. Other than those two, I have at least six partials. Of those partials, I'd say...three are ones I'd like to do something with one day.
shanna_s
Jun. 2nd, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
I actually sold my first book, and then I started selling on proposal, so I don't have many "trunk novels," just a lot of trunk proposals. I think I have four complete novels that haven't sold. One is a complete waste and will never see the light of day again. One is for a market I no longer have any desire to write for, so it will likely remain buried, although I have stolen its setting and one of its characters for an entirely different book. Another has been mutated a few times in my head, and I think I might be able to salvage the characters and basic situation into a new story that works, but the market for that kind of book is kind of dead at the moment, so there's not much point. The fourth, I think the basic story and the characters are quite worthy, but at the time I wrote that book, my writing wasn't good enough to do them justice. I have plans to totally rewrite that book from scratch, not even looking at the original version, and see what I can do with it now.
(Deleted comment)
irysangel
Jun. 2nd, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
Never delete! You'll miss it once you do.

I always go back to my first manuscript for a good laugh. I thought it was BRILLIANT back then.

Keep it to remind yourself of how far you've come. :)

- Jill Myles
(no subject) - kristinlaughtin - Jun. 6th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
jeanne_stein
Jun. 2nd, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
Good topic-- I have two straight mysteries that I'd love to do something with. But when I submitted the first as a proposal to my agent, he wasn't so keen on it. He wants me to focus on the UF and I do agree with that. Someday, maybe....

Jeanne
yasminegalenorn
Jun. 2nd, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
Nope...in fact, my agent ASKED for mine (there are seven) and I told her no way--they're being burnt when I'm cremated, whenever that day may come. They aren't good enough to be published and I'd be embarrassed by the quality of work I was writing then. Period. When I told an editor friend about them and that I wasn't going to do anything about them, she said she wished more authors would do the same.

Yasmine
crimson_angel
Jun. 2nd, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
I have currently 3 partials and one full book in the trunk that I might someday dust off and work on. Problem is, I have too many books on my to-be-written list, so I'm not even sure that will ever get done.

The full novel and 1 partial are actually on my list. Then there's the novella I finished in 2005 that's waiting for a rewrite...

I know I'm a better writer than I was 5 years ago. I'm also somewhat slow due to using voice recognition as opposed to typing (although I am getting faster) so sometimes it's a question of what NEEDS to be written now vs what can reasonably wait.

And what should never see the light of day. I think 2 of those partials are it.

Very interesting topic!

CA
(Anonymous)
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
I have four and absolutely not. Though I love them all and learned so much writing each of them. To start with, most are in a genre I discovered I wasn't so great at. To finish, I have developed so much as a writer with every book I've written, the idea of going back...

The closest I've come is stealing a character out of one of those old books and putting her in my newest. Different name, slightly different purpose, but at her heart, the same girl.
dpeterfreund
Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Oh for goodness' sake
That's me and I can't figure out why I don't stay logged in!
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