When Your Manuscript is Problematic

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By Glynn Young

I knew the manuscript would be tricky. The story is about what flows from a hoax. The hoax itself occupies a tiny part of the story; the ramifications are the story. But I knew this would not be an easy road, especially in today’s cultural climate. I anticipated I would be paddling a canoe against a raging torrent.

I was not wrong.

I researched my agents. I found one whom I thought would be fair and not reject the manuscript out of hand. The research paid off; the agent gave it a fair reading.

The response: I love the characters. The story is well-paced and compelling. It keeps you engaged all the way to the end. It’s an important story. But none of the publishers we work with would even consider publishing it.

Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. The agent was being realistic and confirmed what I suspected.

The question became, and becomes, what do I do with a story like this?

I can try another agent. I considered that but decided to hold off. I needed to spend some time thinking about this story I’d written.

I can rewrite the story, eliminating or substituting something else for the problematic part. That part was a total of some 400 words in a manuscript of almost 90,000 words. I asked myself, what could I substitute in its place as the event that sets the story in motion? If I could develop such an event, what else might be needed? I tried a few things. Nothing worked. Everything else changed the story. Significantly.

I can seek a publisher who might consider it. I’ve thought long and hard about that; at least three I know of might fit. One tends to focus on thriller/suspense stories, which this one clearly isn’t. My manuscript falls more in the category of literary fiction. Another publishes speculative or alternative fiction, almost paranormal stories. Mine clearly falls outside that genre. Way outside. I’m still researching possible agents and publishers.

Indie or self-publishing is an option. It’s a serious consideration. I know enough about to make me dangerous. I’m looking into it to learn more and make sure I fully understand what I’d be getting into.

Setting the manuscript aside for a time is also a possibility. I can let time pass and then revisit the story when the publishing climate might be more amenable. For this story, a more receptive publishing climate isn’t likely for some considerable time.

I’m doing some combination of all the above, plus one additional thing. I’ve written another story. It’s in rough draft form, but the draft is finished. Rewriting and editing lie ahead. There’s nothing tricky or problematic about it, and I’m more hopeful that it has a publishing future, or a more immediate one.

In the face of rejection or the problems I encountered, I knew it was important to keep writing. Experiencing setbacks is expected in this business, and far more manuscripts get rejected than accepted. The specifics may differ, but my experience with my previous manuscript is not uncommon.

Even if it is a really good story.

Glynn Young is a national award-winning speechwriter, communications practitioner, and novelist. He’s the author of four published novels, Dancing PriestA Light ShiningDancing King, and Dancing Prophet;  and Dancing Prince; and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work.   Visit Glynn on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, his blog, the Dancing Priest book page, and his business website.


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