Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Salvaging Rejected Manuscripts

I am sure many of us have a few manuscripts which are sitting idly in the bottom most drawer of our writing desks. These are the manuscripts that have done their rounds of agents and editor’s inbox and been politely turned down.

There are also the manuscripts that we have abandoned halfway because we have moved on to another project that has excited us more. We writers do have a couple of manuscripts that I would tag as practice manuscripts that have helped us find our writing voice. These are also the manuscripts that we have practiced our writing skills on. These manuscripts need not be completely abandoned
  1. Even in our worst stories there are a few redeemable scenes. We can use these scenes as short stories by making a few adjustments.

  1. We can also if time permits serialize the manuscript and send it as a serial to magazines or newspapers that publish such work. A writer I know in Bangalore whose book did the rounds of many publishers serialized her book as 18 episodes. These were carried by a newspaper for the children’s section.

  1. As most of us have chosen the genre we write (I am assuming that our unpublished work belongs to the same genre as our current work) we can lift a few redeemable scenes from the unpublished work and add them into the new one.

  1. Another suggestion would be to rewrite the entire book keeping in mind every thing we have learnt along the way. This does require time and lots of effort but the result is worth it.

I plan to rewrite a manuscript. I will definitely be letting go of many scenes, but on the other hand I also now know what is not working in that particular book.

What about you all? Do you all have a few manuscripts in your files? What are your plans for those manuscripts? Are they going to be relegated to the files? Any plans of making use of these manuscripts? Do share your views.

As I am going out of town, my next post will be on 28th Feb. Till then, keep writing.


  1. Very useful and nice suggestions, Rachna!

  2. There's a lot of recycling going on betweenmy manuscripts. Never throw anything out, that's my motto.

    Very interesting post.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  3. Great tips, and yes, I do have a few manuscripts filed away--especially picture books. Need to get them out and take another look. Thanks, Rachna :-)

  4. Like most writers, I have several manuscripts languishing in my files. I doubt I will ever use them but they were good to write when I did:)

  5. O you reminded me of my long-written-now-forgotten book. It went to two publishers who were not interested in literature. They never read my work and never called back. They didn't return my manuscript also, in which I have invested my entire school pocket money. Bhutanese publishers, if any are only interested in working with huge orders for government documents. I soon lost my interest in publishing.
    After six years you suddenly made me want to reconsider, look for the file, and read it once and try something different with it. Thank you so much. Looks like you are heading for vacation- best wishes. See you on 28th!

  6. I have probably ten or fifteen novels that are written and awaiting further revision, but only a few of them will actually be revised and self-published.

  7. @ Rahul, thanks. Hope this post helped in some way.

    @ Mooderino, I too believe that nothing is wasted in writing. It can all be used in some way.

    @ Alka, lots of food for thought, I hope.

    @ Kenda, do let me know how the picture book rewriting goes.

    @ Terri, yes, we all do have several manuscripts lying around in our files. It all our practice books.

    @ Passu, I am glad that this post is nudging you towards revisiting that manuscript. I am sure you will be able to revise it. You can always send it out to publishers in other countries. The Internet has done wonders for the publishing industry.

    @ Richard, I can understand. I too have several manuscripts, I doubt I will be able to revise all, except one or two.

  8. I keep my old manuscripts because they're practice pieces; they show me how far I've come and how I've improved. Plus there might be some glimmering nuggets in them to use elsewhere!

  9. So far, I've only completely abandoned two manuscripts as total losses. Everything else has something redeemable about it. That said, I recently drudged up one I'd liked the feel of and submitted it to my critique group. I was so embarrassed when they responded that it had to be very old - they could tell how much I'd grown in that time. I was embarrassed because I hadn't thought the difference would be noticeable and so I hadn't reread the ms before sending it. Proud also, though. At least those ten years haven't been in vain. Have a great trip!

  10. Some of the unfinished mss I have lying around I would definitely call as my practice rounds. My writing has evolved through the years, and it's sometimes fun to sift through my old writings and see the difference. But you're right--there are scenes/ideas/plot lines we can redeem from the abandoned mss. :)

  11. Def great advice. I'll start digging through some of my old files for useful tidbits:)

  12. I had one that sat in a drawer for about thirty years! Pulled it out, decided the story was awful but the characters solid, and rewrote the whole thing. It eventually became my first published book.

  13. @ Laura, yep, there are glimmering nuggets even in our not so best books.

    @ Victoria, that feeling that we are improving with each manuscript is so wonderful. I feel thrilled when my CP's say flattering things about my stories.

    @ Cherie, the redeemable scenes are like a gold-mine. Even our earlier drafts should be saved. One never knows which scene will come in handy.

    @ Mark, we writers should revisit our old stories once in a while. It can sometimes trigger off our sleeping muse in a big way.

    @ Alex, that's wonderful. A book that you had written thirty years back, that's a long time. I too have one such story where the character is great but the story sucks. I will have to go through it in future and see what I can manage to save and rescue in that MS.

  14. I have a junkyard that I keep my editied sections. I end up using many of these in future writings. Sometimes they need to be tweaked. Often I can practically copy and paste. So I try not to waste anything.

  15. Rachna, these are such great ideas! I do have some that I'll be recycling. I figure "what's the worst that can happen?" Enjoy your trip :)

  16. Long ago I gave up trying to get published my first book. I never threw it away, however. There are a few golden scenes in it and occasionally I'll use them in short stories, or snippets in other novels.

  17. Hi Rachna!
    Nice post!
    Author Karen Wiesner (First Draft in 30 Days) recommends rewriting those troublesome manuscripts in outline form to try to work out the problems... could be enlightening- without having to rewrite the whole thing from scratch.

  18. I don't really have manuscripts that I've given up on. They've just been sidelined so that I can get Doorways out.

  19. I save everything I don't use in my writing, just in case I might find a place to use it later on. Always good to not waste that creative energy!


  20. I'm not in your league yet Rachna, wish I had a manuscript, salvage or no salvage!

  21. Yes, to everything you said. I have half-finished work; rejected work that is really good; re-thought work that may take a new form; all of this in my filing cabinet. I plan to use everything one way or another eventually.

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  23. I belong to an authors' group. We meet once a month and read something we've written. Some of the stories are sooo good but haven't been published. We do egg each other along not to give up.