Recycling your work.

RecyclingTwo years ago I wrote a book.  Yeah, yeah, I’m always writing book.  But this was a very special book, as I’d been waiting a long time to write it and felt that was the moment to tackle it for real.  And then I made a terrible mistake: I started thinking about how I was going to make other people like it, rather than about how I could write a story that made me happy.

In this business we all want to sell books.  For some (like me) it’s not a question of want, but of need.  I don’t sell books, I have issues paying the bills.  But it’s possible to get so stuck on the idea of making a sale that you forget what attracted you to a particular story in the first place. And that’s what happened to me.

The book was written and submitted.  Reception from my agent was meh.  Reception from at least one publisher was meh.  Eventually it was deemed unsalable and it went into the dreaded Sock Drawer, or its digital equivalent.  There it has gathered virtual dust, unloved and pretty much forgotten.  Except by me.

I was unhappy when I wrote the book because I felt compelled to write it in a way not in keeping with my personal satisfaction.  I didn’t dig the characters and I didn’t like the way I had to bend the story to fit genre conventions.  And guess what?  The book wasn’t good!  Because writing has to be something that comes from you, not from some committee somewhere.  If you try to write what other people want, sometimes you’ll succeed — because you’ll make it your own somehow, even if you don’t realize it — but most of the time you will fail.

So I wrote the book again.  I took what was good about it, and I wrote an entirely new book from beginning to end, without so much as a single word cut-and-pasted from the original manuscript.  And you know what?  I’m happy with it.  I’ll be happy with it no matter what happens now, because it’s my story, told my way.

Do you have something you wrote for the money, but ended up hating?  See what you can recycle and tell the story again, assuming it means something to you.  Pay no attention to criticism or suggestions.  Write your story.  Write it your way.  The money will come.