Yesterday, author Marcus Brotherton guest-posted for literary agent Rachelle Gardner, whose blog should be a must-read for all aspiring novelists. The title of his post was, “A Time to Kill… Your Novel.”
I have to say, from the get-go, I didn’t like the idea of the post — deciding when the time was right to kill a novel or put it away forever. But I read it and thought about it all night, actually. I totally identify with Brotherton’s experiences — the rejections, the promise of a publishing deal and then the thud of the deal falling through or of things never coming to fruition — but I disagree with his logic.
I don’t think there’s ever a time to kill a novel. Here’s what I wrote to Brotherton in the comment section:
Your response to Alisa made me giggle. My husband claims to be a “realist” as well, particularly when he thinks I’ve got my head in the clouds, which is pretty much all the time…
I actually read your guest post yesterday, and it unsettled me. I was thisclose to responding, but then decided to sleep on it. Now here I am no closer to a well-worded and insightful response than yesterday, but here goes:
The idealist in me says never give up. Never. Never ever ever. If you believe in what you’ve got, for the love of god, hold onto it and shout it to the world. Rejection is a part of the business.
Just as you say that so many writers have novels that never saw the light of day before they hit it big, there are just as many writers who were told their stuff sucked but carried on anyway and became successful with those “rejected” manuscripts.
Does that mean you should ignore criticism? Or course not. Use it. Learn from it. Own it. Make your novel better. Every novel can be made better.
The thing is, all writers — ALL of us — are plagued with self-doubt, whether we’re newbies or seasoned published authors. It’s a part of what we do. Who we are. And to tell us when it’s time to kill our novel is, I worry, giving us permission to give into our deepest fears instead of fighting them.
In my heart of hearts, I don’t think there is EVER a time to kill a novel. Put it on the back burner, sure. Save it for another day to edit? Why not. Self-publish? Give it a try. Use parts of it in other creative works? You bet. But don’t stick it into a drawer and forget about it. That, to me, would be the death not only of a novel, but also of a piece of the novelist.
What do you think? Is there a time to kill a novel? If I had thought that way, Baby Grand may never have come to be.