You’ll often see, as you meander through writing Twitter, people discouraged from unsuccessful queries being told by other writers (or even by those they’ve queried) that a project may need to be sat aside.
“Put it in the trunk,” they’ll tell you. “Write another book.”
As a writer, it’s disheartening to think that a project you feel strongly about, one you have poured your time, energy and tears into, is “junk”. No matter how kindly the suggestion is made, that’s how the ego hears it: “My work is junk.”
Your ego is often wrong, so let’s clear up that heartbreaking assumption. Maybe your book doesn’t fit into traditional publishing’s neat boxes of “Things We Can Sell Because They Remind Us Of Things That Sell Well.” Maybe your project isn’t right in the current market, but could be in five years. Maybe you had the misfortune of querying people who simply didn’t know what to do with it. Or maybe it isn’t a strong book and yes, it needs to be tucked away somewhere.
Either way, for a variety of reasons, authors have books in the mythical trunk, like misfit toys in an old wooden chest.
Recently, the awesome Ava Jae got curious about the trunks of other writers. With all of the advice out there, it seemed no one had ever dug into how many books lay in the trunk prior to successful debut novels. Ava sticks with traditionally published authors, but in taking a survey online, she revealed a comforting truth: plenty of successful writers have shelved projects that may never see the light of day.
Writing is a skill, like any other. Practice makes perfect. And while some of us have an innate gift and can polish up a debut until it’s snatched up by the Book Powers That Be, most of us have to work at our craft for a while.
(For the record, self-publishing is no different. I have countless poems, years of fanfiction, and three novels that will NEVER see the light of day in my trunk. I firmly believe that just because the world has changed and I can publish anything and everything, that certainly doesn’t mean I ought to. I recently dug into my own digital trunk and cringed mostly, although I did remember a cool experiment worth revisiting someday…)
Have a look at Ava’s data – it’s definitely reassuring. As for your trunk? It’s definitely not junk. If nothing else, it’s practice that will bring you closer to perfect.