Mayday! Mayday! We Have a Plothole!

Wait a minute--this isn’t the novel I was planning on revising next.

That’s what I said to myself all of five minutes ago, after opening up the rough draft of one of my novels. And it’s true. Editing that particular manuscript was about as far down on my list of priorities as it gets.

Up until about half an hour ago, I’d had it all planned out. First, I was going to complete one final wave of revisions on my mainstream novel and then begin the querying process in the hopes of leveraging my win in this year’s Family Circle fiction contest to attract an agent for that book. Then I wanted to dig into the edit of my urban fantasy novel, the one that’s been wallowing for years, neglected, on my hard drive. I’d decided that now was the time to dust it off and work on it because it would fit in perfectly with what’s hot in the market today.

But this novel... the novel I just opened... my seriously flawed science fiction novel... the novel I am finding myself now seriously wanting to dive into next... well, this novel was not even in my long-range forecast.

I wrote this particular novel during National Novel Writing Month in 2008. It was one of my more ambitious NaNo projects, and also one of my more extreme writing-without-a-roadmap endeavors. I remember starting that year with three entirely unconnected images and the knowledge that I wanted to write a novel around them.

I did manage to do it, winding up the month with over 75,000 words and a novel that felt as if it had come out of nowhere. It was probably one of my most enjoyable, inspired months of writing. But come December 1st, I also realized that I probably had an unsalvageable manuscript.


Because you could fly a 747 through the plot holes (and that might be a gentle assessment).

Now, one of the great things about participating in National Novel Writing Month each year is that if that year’s novel sucks, I can trunk it without guilt. So I filed away the hard copy of my novel, buried the electronic copy deep in my Writing files, and wrote off that manuscript as a learning experience.

Still, every now and again I’m drawn back to it. I couldn’t say exactly why, except that I keep feeling like there’s something there. And I’m realizing I still have passion for that novel: for the characters and settings, for the whole damn concept. Because, as unsalvageable as I’ve deemed it, it’s also, in some strange way, my favorite of all the NaNo novels I’ve written. I know that doesn’t make a lick of sense, but there it is.

So though it might feel like chasing a whim, I think I’m going to trust my instincts and go for it. I don’t know how I’m going to approach it yet. I don’t know how I’m going to even begin to figure out how to make the story make sense. I don’t even know if it’s possible.

What’s the worst that can happen though? That at the end of the process I’ll still have an unsalvageable manuscript? I can live with that. Because on the flip side, well, you never know…

So let me ask you this: Have you ever salvaged something you’d originally deemed unsalvageable? Do you tend to trust your “writing” instincts even when they go against your common sense? Have you ever loved a project enough to pursue it even when you thought it was futile?


  1. I trust my writing instincts whenever I can. If they're saying something is salvageable, it probably is. Trust yourself! Listen to that little inner voice. What do you want to work on? Focus on that, and... go!

  2. I say go with your instincts. I have two manuscripts waiting for me, to reach the place you're at now. Sometimes words just need to marinate for awhile. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. If it's calling to you,I think you should run with it. When the muse speaks, we must listen! LOL! :-)

    Thanks for your comment at Book Dreaming today.

  4. I look for the golden nugget among the utter crap whether it was a character I loved or a scene or whatever, and I salvage the nugget and start again.

    I say I you're drawn to the older manuscript, go for it. Just make sure you're not being called to it as a means to AVOID something else.

  5. I still have all my writings, including the ones who will never be upgraded to computer or rewritten... and that's a lot of notebooks, trust me! Some I keep as souvenirs, others I plan to rewrite... Yesterday I got the "epiphany" on how to "recycle" some novels who are full of fantasy clichés and adapt the few original ideas to my fantasy world... probably many things will change in the rewrite, but you never know when that idea can sparkle back to new life! So, keep everything, and follow your heart! :-D
    the compulsive writer

  6. Lisa, I'm a Cancer, so I NEVER let go of ANYTHING... at least not something DONE in some form or other, and not MUCH that is only part done. I think if it's speaking to you now, then it is TIME.

  7. Ideas need to marinate, all the best ones do. I think what a lot of novels lack now is genuine passion. If you find it in any of your ideas, then take the plunge. I don't think it's wasted time. If you wrote it-well IMHO, someone wants to read it. Put your all in and make that someone many someones. You're a writer. You will find a way.

    Dying of curiousity to know what this idea is that's drawn you back. Don't drop it!

  8. this hasn't happened to me so i'm sorry I don't have any advice except I think following your instincts is always the right thing to do and will lead you good places! Good luck!

  9. Hi Lisa,
    I’ve just started working on an old novel idea, one I thought I could never really turn into a book for the plot never really worked but I’m too in love with my characters so I kept pushing it away but somehow whenever I try and work on a new idea, I end up adding one more scene to this one so I said, what the hell why not? I’ll go with my instincts and if it doesn’t work, at least it’ll be good writing practice and I’ll get it out of my system.
    But on the other hand if it does work... :)

  10. I've done this! But just the first part not the unsalvagable part. I have edited to DEATH certain manuscripts and that was NO fun. The ones on my hard drive that are unsalvagable shall be canabolized into other books. ;)


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