Monday, May 16, 2011

When is it time to shelve a novel?

Those of you who have been around the writing blog world for any length of time have seen articles or comments like this one Will Your First Novel Be Published? by agent Rachelle Gardner.

The article talks about how, for most writers, the likelihood of publishing their first or even second or third novel is slim. Rather, these books can be great building blocks for a writer to establish their voice and improve their craft. While this is honest advice, it can also be discouraging for new writers, especially those who write with the goal of publication in mind.

Does this mean you shouldn't give all you've got to your first and second and third novels? Absolutely not. Does this mean you shouldn't work and rework your first novels until you feel they are the best they can possibly get? No. Does this even mean you shouldn't HOPE you will be the one to buck the trend and land a multi-book deal off your first novel? No.

My first novel was published by a "real" publishing house. However, I feel I have gained more writerly knowledge by the writing of subsequent works than the publishing of my first book. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change my experience for the world, and having one publishing credit under my belt is a huge confidence booster. However, as I continue to learn and write, I wonder about these questions.

So, when do you STOP revising and sending out that novel and decide that it was one best used as "practice"? Maybe for some it's when they reach a certain number of rejections. For others, it may be if their rejections are only form letters. Others may shelve their novel if they never get a request for a full manuscript.
How do YOU know when to shelve your novel and move on to the next one?


Kaylee Baldwin said...

This is a great question. I love writing, but I also kind of like revising, so with my books--I've been "lucky" enough to get feedback with my rejections so I've done revisions. I think I'd shelf a book after getting a certain number of rejections that show no interest at all and spend my time working on something new. There are a lot of people who had their first books rejected, but then their second or third books were picked up.

Anna said...

This is the place I am in right now. I just couldn't get any more creative right now for my manuscript. So I went to another idea and the ideas have been flowing.

I'm not willing to give up completely on my first novel. It's on the shelf for now, but I visit it here and there. I know it's got a good basic plot line and there are some good scenes. I just need to have it all come together. But I don't think it's what I need to be doing right now. It's the most I've ever written from a story idea.

Although, actually, I did write another novel that I wrote from age 16-18. I sent it off and it got rejected. I can totally tell why now. So really that was my first novel, right?

Although I do want to be published someday, if I never got published but wrote novel after novel after novel, I'd still be happy. I've been doing it off and on for over 15 years and never got paid yet. I just love to make up stories and write them down.

Jolene Perry said...

You shelve it when you're good enough of a writer, to know what crap writing your first novel is :D

My first is shelved. I'm going to tell the story, but will probably ignore the original document.

My second is being published by Cedar Fort, and I"m not sure which number I'm querying, but so far, good feedback...
The first one just showed me I could write and finish a whole book.