How do you know whether what you've written is worth anything? Brianna raises this question in her previous post "When You Can't Tell Anymore." At what point do doubts overcome your hopes? When do you kill your words and abandon a manuscript?
In "Burn Before Reading," (NY Times Book Review, 3/6) Dan Kois gets answers from a few famous authors. Chang-rae Lee threw out two year's work on an unfinished novel he now calls "bombastic" and "unfunny." Is this unusual?
After over five years of work, Michael Chabon abandoned his second novel. (Can't imagine the despair and frustration!) John Updike, Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Saul Bellow, Richard Price, Stephenie Meyer - all killed novels for various reasons. Ironically, Harper Lee abandoned a second novel after the success of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Most often, however, the killing takes place because the writer realizes the book just isn't working. That's when what Chabon calls the "Hand of Dread" should be heeded.
Yes, I've killed manuscripts. We all have. It takes courage to grasp the "Hand of Dread" and abandon our idea. But is it total disaster city? Maybe not. Perhaps there's something - a description, a figure of speech, a character quirk - that can be recycled. Waste not!
Have you ever been lucky enough to reuse material from an abandoned manuscript?