New Year, New Manuscript?

by Erin Brown

January 2014 

As each year begins, some of us crazy people decide to make resolutions. Usually, they’re all about exercising, spending more time with the family, quitting smoking, or cutting down on those delicious mini Reese’s that come in the king-sized bag. I mean, can someone really give those up? They’re creamy and chocolaty and . . . but I digress.

This new year of 2014 is a wonderful time to start fresh with writing too. There are many, many of you writers out there who have been polishing and rewriting and revamping and re-everythinging (sure that’s a word!), only to find that after sending out two hundred queries and partials, your manuscript isn’t getting any bites. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to set that manuscript aside—whether for a month or permanently—and begin something new, something fresh. Perhaps you haven’t yet discovered your strongest voice; maybe your characters aren’t grabbing the readers, etc. Hopefully, you’ve gotten some feedback so that you can learn from your overall weaknesses as a writer, not just the weaknesses in a specific novel. Now might be the moment to clear your head, take those lessons, and put them to work.

Often, time away from an all-consuming novel is just what the writing doctor ordered to get your creative juices flowing again. “But how can I set aside my life’s work?” you ask. Just do it. Put it on a shelf. Don’t open the file. Give yourself some space and perspective. In the meantime, start something new. How exciting! Before you begin, think of all the feedback you’ve received on your other manuscript. Can you begin a new story using all of the constructive criticism in order to become a stronger writer? Is your setting unique and descriptive? Are your characters compelling? Is your voice strong? And most importantly, is it different from anything else out there?

Most writers don’t begin with those questions, especially the last one. Just because you’re writing a book doesn’t mean that people will want to read it or agents will want to buy it. Why is your novel different? Why would a reader pluck it off the shelves instead of the thousands of others? This is a question you want to answer before you start writing. Perhaps you didn’t consider this while writing the well-worn manuscript you’re now clutching in your hands.

It’s only after hearing two hundred times, “I like it, but don’t love it,” that you realize your manuscript isn’t standing out from the gazillions of others out there. Starting a manuscript with all of this knowledge is imperative. Take the opportunity to apply the lessons you’ve learned during the submission process to begin again.

And really, what do you have to lose? Another two hundred rejections? That’s not so bad. But you can gain back your excitement, create a new cast of characters, or craft a unique plot. If it doesn’t work out for you, pull down that old manuscript, dust it off (or just double click the file if you’re one of those kooky computer people), and start revising . . . again. However, don’t be afraid to try something new as the year begins. You might be amazed at what flows when you release yourself from the chains of your “other” novel. So as the year begins, keep eating Reese’s and sit on the couch instead of hitting the gym. But definitely resolve to wake up that writing bug again by starting fresh. Happy New Year, everyone! And most importantly, happy writing!


Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at

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