Got Junk In Your Writing Trunk? You’re Not Alone.

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.

Feeling discouraged about having to trunk a novel? @Ava_Jae shares statistics you might find encouraging.

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Patience is a virtue (that you’ll need if you want to trad-pub)

In her second post in our Behind The Book series, author Carrie Morgan (on the traditional publishing path) delves into the preparations and process of querying agents – guaranteed to tax your reserve of patience beyond its limits.

More in this series

Wages of War

In my first post in this series, I explained how being published (and by that I mean traditionally published, going the agent-to-publisher route) has been my dream since I was a teenager.

What I didn’t know back then, and what I didn’t realize until I’d already started down the trad-pub path, was that whatever patience it takes to write book-length fiction is just the beginning. If you want to get your book out there on the streets as quickly as possible, trad-pub is probably not for you.

First, of course, you have to write your novel. How long this takes varies widely by person. In my case, setting aside the year or so that my novel concept swirled around in my head before I sat down to actually write it, it took me ninety-four days to write the first draft of my novel, The Road Back From Broken. While…

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“The End” Is Only The Beginning

Carrie Morgan shares her decision to pursue traditional publishing as part of our Behind The Book collaborative series. The flip side of the publishing coin to my self-publishing pursuit.

Wages of War

When I was sixteen, I got my first real job. My first introduction to the working world of W-2s, withholding and fifteen-minute breaks was as a retail sales clerk for the now-defunct B. Dalton Bookseller. For a teenager whose nose was always buried in a book, it was the perfect first job, even if it did pay only a nickel more than the minimum wage of $3.80 an hour.

I loved working at the bookstore, which was tucked into a busy corner of the old Southglenn Mall in Littleton, Colorado. Being surrounded by books, seeing the new ones come in and handling the stripping or return of older titles that didn’t sell—it was a great gig for a young bibliophile.

That same year, I started to write a book of my own—a long, aimlessly rambling monstrosity called TheFour Horsemen that told the story of a Scottish soldier during Henry…

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