Last night I got home from a quick trip to Chicago for the annual AWP Conference. As always, the conference was overload–too many panels, too many people, too many parties–and of course I’m already looking forward to the next one (Boston, March 6-9, 2013).
I didn’t do any blogging and very little tweeting or FB updates while I was in Chicago, so over the course of the coming week I plan to do blog posts reflecting on some the great sessions I attended.
One that I really liked was “Unrequited Love: Renewing Your Vows to the Troublesome Novel,” featuring Elizabeth Brundage, Stewart O’Nan, Jenna Blum, Alice Elliot Dark, and Carole De Santi.
As Elizabeth said in her opening remarks, many writers have a novel or two or more stashed in a drawer. It may not be publishable as is, for one reason or another, but we probably all feel that there is something there worth rescuing–even if it’s only an idea. These five writers talked about their experiences with these drawer manuscripts. Most of the panelists had stories of books that they wrote and couldn’t or didn’t get published that they came back to much later, when they finally realized what needed to be done. As someone with 2 novels in a drawer (two halves of one failed novel that I split into two failed novels), I’d love to think that there’s still hope for that work, even if none of the original sentences survive.
During the Q&A session, I asked this: All of the panelists had a healthy and patient attitude toward their problem novels, and it worked out well for them in the end. What advice did they have for writers who are tempted to just turn those problem novels into eBooks and sell them on Amazon? I asked this not because I have any thoughts of doing this, but I certainly know that many writers these days don’t have the patience to wait. And the panelists answered as I thought they would–careers are long things and one doesn’t want to ruin a career by self-publishing something that just isn’t ready; that everything can benefit from reconsideration and revision, and that there are still rewards to traditional publishing. I agree with these answers, although I doubt writers who are tempted to self-publish would be convinced.
A very good panel discussion.