On Immediately Trunking Manuscripts

Photo credit: rich115 on Flickr
Confession: I have not polished every manuscript I’ve written to a submission-ready gleam—or even tried to, for that matter.

Over the course of eight years I’ve written eleven manuscripts. Of those eleven, I brought five of them to what I at the time considered submission-ready. To be fair, one of them I only just finished a couple weeks ago and thus isn’t ready for editing, so if I remove that from my statistics, that brings me to an even 50% immediate-trunk rate. Or polish rate, if you’re half-glass full.

So now you may be wondering what happened to those five manuscripts I immediately trunked and/or thinking they were a waste of time, but I assure you they were not.

If you’re looking just at time spent, I usually take about an average of a month to month and a half to finish first drafting, so you could say that I “lost” a month with every WIP I immediately trunked. But I don’t consider it a loss, because I gained a whole lot, too.

My first insta-trunked MS, I learned just how much I enjoy making up new cultures and worlds.

My second insta-trunked MS, I learned how not to end a book, and how not to write an antagonist, and why certain clichés really don’t work. I also learned I can indeed write a book in a month. (Unsurprisingly, I don’t anticipate removing this one from the trunk ever. But I suppose you never know).

My third insta-trunked MS, I remembered certain character types that I adore—I remembered I love writing characters who are rejected by everyone, who live on the fringe of society, trying to be the best they can be while everyone around them refuses to see them for who they are. I also reminded myself that I really don’t want to write an antagonist like that. Oops.

My fourth insta-trunked MS, I learned I like writing about aliens and making up languages. I also learned that writing with an outline works really well for me.

My fifth and most recent insta-trunked MS, I learned to let my characters go and try not to strictly plan their romances. I learned writing with an outline doesn’t mean I have to stick exactly to plan, and I learned when my characters suffer real consequences for their actions, they’re so much more powerful than a slap on the wrist.

These lessons may seem a little all over the place, but in my two most recent manuscripts, I used many, if not all of these lessons to better my work.

As for why I put them away to begin with? The reasons varied, but generally it was because somewhere between the first read-through and deciding on edits, I came to realize I either wasn’t ready to start editing for one reason or another, or I didn’t love the story as much as I had while drafting. Which isn’t the end of the world, but in order for me to get through edits (and do them well), I need to believe in the story completely.

Now I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it again, but trunking a manuscript does not mean it’s forever condemned or it’ll never escape the trunk. All it means is that I need to put it away for the time being, and true, some of them will probably never escape the trunk, but I have hope for others that when the time is right, I’ll polish them up and they’ll be ready.

But until then, I’ll keep writing.

Have you ever immediately trunked a manuscript? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
"Trunking a manuscript does not mean it's forever condemned..." (Click to tweet
Have you ever trunked a MS? Here's why one writer put five WIPs in the drawer without querying them. (Click to tweet


Jo Malby said...

Thank you for another brilliant post. I have an epic fantasy manuscript that I keep setting aside, trying to salvage, and hiding again. I call it my epic fantasy as it's a fantasy of epic proportions to think it may ever be complete it *blushes* but as you so articulately said, we learn so much from this. The journey is always worth enjoying, especially also learning through the process but it can be easy to forget that when looking at the difficult manuscript, filled with doubt. Thankfully other projects are as yet simmering nicely. Also have so many snippets, undeveloped ideas, scenes, short stories or bits of freewriting that may some day be extended and reworked into novels or novellas after honing the art of storytelling and especially structure. Love that you wrote this post and really enjoy your blog. Thank you :)

Ava Jae said...

You're so very welcome, Jo! I absolutely 100% believe that we learn from everything we write and nothing is wasted. There are some lessons, ideas and discoveries that we can only stumble across while writing.

Also, best of luck your writing! ^_^

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