Private v. Public Stories: When to Hold Back
We’re talking about those old files, old stories, old passions that are hidden in your file drawer. Here are four manuscripts that should stay in your drawer.
Your first manuscript. No, you are not allowed to air your first attempts at writing fiction to the world. No. Don’t do it. Let your squeaks and squawks forever remain hidden.
The intensely personal mss that is “true to life.” As I talked about last week, it’s very hard to turn life into fiction. It’s especially hard when the life issue is a difficult, emotional one. Yes, write about those things; writing is a type of therapy for some. But before you try to sell it as fiction, be sure you’ve turned loose of the exact events, the exact language, the exact dialogue, the exact characters. You must loosen your grip and serve the needs of your Story. It’s so hard when the event is so emotional, but you must do this. Otherwise, sell it as a memoir, or turn it into a self-help book for others in the same situation. I’m not saying you can’t write about your life; I’m not saying you can’t publish something about strong, difficult events. But if you want this to be a novel, a piece of fiction, maybe it needs to just stay in your file drawer.
The mss your spouse/family hates. Your first critics are your family and for good reason. When you publish fiction, you enter the public arena and that means your family is dragged along, for better or worse. Just a warning: do this at your own risk.
Any mss that you can’t imagine with your name on it. You know that feeling of getting a new book and seeing your name on it? (Or at least you can imagine that feeling?) Can you also imagine seeing your name on a book and getting a sinking feeling? Any story or novel or nonfiction topic that will cause a sinking feeling in your gut–leave in your drawer. This could be because of the topic or the quality of the writing. Only put out your best, manuscripts for which you can stand tall and proclaim, “I wrote this.”