Jun 5, 2009

Poor little orphan projects

By Christine Thackeray

Last year I had my first two books published (well, I co-authored one with my sister.) In contrast, this year I finished three manuscripts and none of them has sold. One is in being considered by Deseret, and the other went to an editor who asked for a rewrite. (They want it half the length.) The third I wrote for a contest and am not sure what is the best road to take with that book.

It's the second ms. that I'd like to talk about. Honestly, this story was so engaging to me when I first wrote it. I thought it was brilliant and the moment that I finally typed the last sentence, the story seemed perfect. But a part of my knew at almost 90,000 words, it was too long.

I sent it in anyway and don't even think the editor read it. She told me that when it was around 60,000 words or less to send it back in. So I cut the subplots, took full, round characters and flattened them to stock, and in the end got down to 61,ooo words. I finished it up and sent it to my pre-readers. This week I got their feedback and two out of three of them said they were dissatisfied with how flat the characters were. They wanted more from them.

Well, there was more! Wonderful Monique told me that she wanted me to changed it and described the original almost word for word. So now it's back to the drawing board. Like Cinderella's ugly stepsisters I'm trying to shove this great story into a tiny glass slipper, and it just won't fit. Ugh. When do you just call it quits? BUT- the publisher wants the story and I believe if I can get it where it should be, they'll buy it.

The saddest part of all is that my brain is calling to my next project. I've ordered all this supplemental material, and I'm ready to roll- but I've got at least another 20 hours to go on my current WIP. I wish I could simply abandon it and move on, but I know I can't let it be orphaned at least not yet.

So back to the drawing board. I'll give it one more try and send it back to my editor. If she turns it down again, then I'll hold onto it and write my next project. Then when it becomes a bestseller, I'll dust this little orphan off and give it another try.

Do others of you have little orphan projects out there?


  1. Honey, orphan projects are all I own. I had a novel rejected in 2001, and abandoned it to my filing cabinet. A whole bunch more very good bits and pieces I've orphaned myself by not submitting. Playing around at writing is my entertainment, so far denied to a hungry world. So, yes I have little orphan projects.

    Come to think of it, I've been "orphaned" since 1962 and am still going fairly strong. Maybe my orphaned projects are actually full of life, if I'd just nourish them.

    By the way, my current mentor says up to 100,000 words is a nice size for a book, but shouldn't exceed 120,000. She recommends I aim for at least 80,000. She thinks self-publishing is the way to go nowadays, if one can possibly swing it, since authors have to pretty well do their own marketing.

    Just thought I'd add to the confusion.

    When you have a good book, trust your instincts. Somebody else will love it, too.

  2. Explains how we all get into writing niches, you almost know what to expect. However, I do know a finely honed book that can do it in fewer words is going to go far. So keep at it.

  3. Wow...so far all my projects all my projects have been orphaned. but, like Anna says, if i take them out and nourish them a bit...who knows!
    Keep at it Christine...and for what it's worth, 90,000 words shouldn't be an issue, if the writing is tight.your characters should not be flat unless their name is Stanley.

  4. Thanks for your insight. I agree with Kari, 90,000 is not too long. Maybe it just hasn't found it's true home yet. Keep at it.

  5. Hi Christine,
    I had two manuscripts that lay orphaned for years and years due to "over-length". I tried cutting them at various editors' requests, but to no satisfactory avail (theirs or mine). So I set them both aside for many years. One has now been published by a supportive publishing company that accepted my 120,000 word ms, and the other is under contract and due to come out this summer at it's full-length 140,000 words. So sometimes "time" + "the right publisher" is what it takes your your story to find its home!


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