In episode 2, Jeni and Melissa talk to Justine Manzano about dusting off an old story idea.
To watch the video, click the image below:
Or listen to the audio podcast here: EPISODE 2 - Dusting Off an Old Story Idea
Welcome to the new season of the Indie Chicks show! I’m Melissa Koberlein, an author and professor of publishing and she’s Jeni Chappelle, a freelance novel editor.
Indie Chicks celebrates and supports independent women in publishing. We’re a place for writers at all stages of the publishing process. So, whether you’re on the traditional route to publication or self-publishing, you’ve come to the right place for advice.
On this episode:
We’re talking about dusting off an old story idea
End with an author tip of the week
This week we’re joined by Justine Manzano. Justine is a YA Author whose debut novel, The Order of the Key, will be released in July 2020 from Black Rose Writing. She’s also a blogger at JustineManzano.com, ⅕ of the CraftQuest editing team, and a self-professed geek and lover of all things weird.
Here's the Q&A
Tell us about the manuscript that you’re working on.
Sure. The Order of the Key is about a geeky girl named Jacklyn who accidentally triggers a long dormant ability when she pushes herself extra hard during a track meet. That ability makes her detectable to all sorts of evil creatures. When she’s attacked, she’s rescued by a guy named Kyp, who tells her she’s a Key just like him, and she can be protected from the surprise monster-beacon she’s accidentally made herself into, if she and her family comes with him to train. It turns out, she was born a member of The Order of the Key, a group of humans with special abilities who fight interdimensional monsters and heal rifts between the dimensions. She agrees to be trained, bringing her younger twin siblings and her mother along with her. They will serve as her Guardians, people with lesser powers who work with the Order to protect the Keys.
Soon she learns why her mother left to begin with. Her father led a failed rebellion against the group’s leader, Kyp’s mother. She’s corrupt, and she isn’t afraid to use the Guardians as cannon fodder in their war. But Kyp isn’t put off by the fact that their parents were once at war. As a matter of fact, he’s decided to take over where her father left off, leading a new rebellion with Jacklyn on the front lines. But Kyp didn’t count on the surge of protectiveness he feels toward Jacklyn, or the way Jacklyn will do anything to keep her family safe—even if it means taking The Order down with her.
Why did you shelf it in the first place?
Oh my God, my history with this book is so long. When my novel was first completed, I entered my first pitch contest with it, and a very small indie pub grabbed it up enthusiastically. And that whole thing is a very long story, but in the end, the company folded, and after gearing up and advertising and much craziness, I was left with no book. Then I won Pitch 2 Publication with it. I reworked the book with Kaitlyn Johnson as my mentor. She went on to be an agent at Corvisiero Literary. She gave me so much insight, and one of the main bits of knowledge was that while she loved the manuscript, I should guard my heart, because the market was not buying Urban Fantasy. I queried for months anyway, and came up empty. I ended up shelving it for a while, before deciding to take it off the shelf and start submitting it to small publishers again. And that’s how I ended up with Black Rose Writing.
What are some reasons that writers should shelf an idea or manuscript?
I think I should start by saying that all shelving should be temporary. No story idea necessarily has to die permanently. There’s my case, which is that the market is just not currently buying what you’re putting out there. That kind of shelving can wait until the market comes back around to your genre, at which point you can try selling the book again. Or, you can just not shelve it and self-publish it. Or you can shelve it until you can financially handle self-publishing it well. Then there’s the other, way harder to swallow, time when you should shelve a book—when it just isn’t working. I have shelved another book before. It was a romantic comedy, and it had some dramatic elements, and no matter what way I tried to write it, it always felt wrong. I don’t think my writing was ready to tackle the depth and tangle of the idea I had planned without making it a wordy jumble of a mess. So I’ve shelved it. But that shelving is also temporary. I’ve shelved it until I feel like I’m ready to tackle it again, once my writing has matured. I’ve recently begun to fiddle with a different way to tackle the subject matter, so it may come off the shelf again relatively soon, although it is still one of my back-burner projects.
What advice do you have for writers that have shelved stories or manuscripts?
I think the best idea is to take some time where you’re not looking at it and getting hurt by rejection after rejection. Work on another project. But come back to it. Reread it. Maybe hire an editor to work on it. Or get a new critique partner to look it over. See if you can figure out a clear reason why you didn’t get somewhere on your first go ‘round. Don’t assume it’s the market, because it could be something within your control. Once you’ve done that, take some time to reevaluate. No story idea is ever really dead. It’s just waiting on you to edit it, or to find the right time to resurrect it. And if you don’t decide to bring it back from the dead? That’s also okay too, because you can always chalk it up to writing experience gained. Everything we write teaches us something, so everything we write is important.
Tip of the week: Never kill a darling! If something isn't working in a story, of course you need to take it out. But instead of giving it the ax, save it in a separate document. You never know when you might be able to re-purpose an old idea, scene, character, or scrap of dialogue.
On our next podcast, Jeni and Melissa are talking with author, Dianna Gunn, about branding. We will also have another Tip of the Week.
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So, remember, we’re all part of a publishing community, be kind and review your fellow authors’ books! Thanks for joining us!
Indie Chicks out.