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Ghosts of writing past...

I have been going through old file cabinets this week. After twenty years of professional writing, I have plenty of file cabinets, and they are all full to the brim. In fact, I was going through those cabinets to create more room!

But what I intended to be a short cleaning session turned into two days, and now I have various stacks of paper all over my desk. And my writing life has found a whole new batch of stories just begging to be written.

For several years I would put aside manuscripts that just didn't have that "vibe" or that "oomph" I was trying to achieve. I might get halfway through a very good story, but then something went wrong. A character went a little nuts. A plot went off the rails. Real life intervened and the story on the page faded from my priorities. Those manuscripts sat on my hard drive for a while, and then I printed them out (because even in this digital age, I am still a paper and pen kind of girl), and into the file cabinet they went.

At some point I let one of the most important rules of writing slip my mind: Get it down on paper, and then give it six months in a drawer. When you come back to it, your eyes are fresh and you see things you didn't see before.

In the case of some of these manuscripts, six months was long gone. Six years was more like it!

But the wait paid off, because now I am looking at the story of Boyd, the town bad-boy, and his very unlikely love interest. I'm reading the first 100 pages of the story of Amber, who lost a husband too young and is now trying to move forward into something new. I am getting into the tale of Maddie and Robert, who both have secrets that the rest of the world might not understand...

And suddenly, my writing future is once again full of characters that need a voice.

It's a good lesson to learn. Put away that manuscript that you've been stuck on and start on something new. Then come back to it a year from now and let the characters reach out to you. You'll find that over time, they have become more complex, more fun and hotter than they were the last time you saw them.


1 comment:

Maria-Claire Payne said...

I can attest to how right you are, Gwen! My very first publication was a story that needed some down-time on my hard-drive before I sent it to a publisher. Through several edits, I still kept the original draft showing me where I had struggled originally -- it's quite the learning experience to go back and see how that story evolved.