Sunday, November 6, 2016

Either/Or Choices

November 6, 2016

Opinions on what a writer *should* do are as many, and as varied, as there are writers. Even editors and publishers have opinions about what writers should do. It's annoying as hell. "Follow your heart," they say. Then in the next breath, they tell you what your heart should be telling you to do. Did I mention it's annoying as hell? 

I'm in the last year of my membership with the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I joined way back in 2003 when the prevailing opinion was that if you wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, you joined. There was a time I read the monthly magazine, Romance Writers Report (RWR), from cover-to-cover. Times change. Career directions and aspirations change. Life happens. Organizations want too much money for too small a return. They send nasty-toned letters saying you owe them postage for the letter they just sent you because you haven't renewed your membership. (I guess I'll get another in 2017 when I really don't renew.)

I've alluded to them but I don't know if I've ever directly addressed an RWR article before, but I want to do so now. In the November 2016 issue, there's a good article by Adrienne deWolfe, "Beware the Manuscript Under the Bed." In it, she cautions writers to think carefully before they spend a lot of time reworking old manuscripts. Her advice, her good advice, is to write forward. That is to say, forget your old work and concentrate on the new. I agree, with one caveat. 

As writers, we all have that one special story that is never left in the past. Those characters are with us, lurking, waiting to come out and play during our quiet times. They live in that one story we wrote and loved, and have since envisioned in countless new ways. For some of us, that story is no longer in print. Mine hasn't been in print for a decade. 

Having years of experience, I look back at that special story and recognize how much I've improved in the craft of writing. I agree with Ms. deWolfe that pulling that particular manuscript out and dusting it off would be ill-advised - if I'm rewriting entirely for the market, i.e., the money. 

Advice frequently given to both new and experienced authors is to write what you know, write what you love. Sometimes you get lucky and it plays well to current markets. Other times, not so much. You are your very first reader so read with watchful, informed eyes. 

Publishing today is vastly changed from the historical view. There's a glut of books available. Getting read often means giving away for free the work one spent months creating. Is that writing to the market? 

The characters in that old story of mine are ones I know well. They've lived with me for twenty years. I don't want to leave them tucked away in the recesses of my mind. Nor do I want to spend months reworking an old manuscript. I like that old manuscript just the way it is. It's the first story I contracted for publication. It's a keepsake. 

The solution, for me, and one Ms. deWolfe doesn't mention is to awaken those characters that I know so well into a new adventure. Dream a new beginning for them and write it forward. Isn't that the best of both worlds? I think it is, for me. 

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