Monday, March 5, 2012

Rags on the Clothesline

Good Morning.

Backstory -- When we moved to NC, I had numerous things in storage. Practically a whole house. In the boxes marked "kitchen" I had wrapped my good glass bowls and platters in kitchen towels. All kinds, colors, textures, 99% of them brand new, never been used. When I finished unpacking I probably had around 30 kitchen towels.

A year after we moved in, we got 2 chihuahua's. Cute little things no bigger than my palm. Fun times. They slept in a box in the kitchen. As they grew, for some crazy reason, they took the kitchen towels off the oven door handle where I hang them, and not only slept with them in the box, but chewed them. I guess they were teething and kitchen towels were cheaper than leather shoes.

Present Story -- The other day it was really nice, so I did some laundry and hung it on the line. My ex took it all in for me. I asked if he had folded it before he put in the basket (because the last time he took stuff off the line he just threw it in there and I had to iron everything twice to get the wrinkles out.) He said he had except for the rags. I asked, "What rags?" I hadn't washed rags, I hadn't used rags. (Those I keep upstairs in the rag bag in the linen closet.) He said, "You know, all those towels that are ripped to shreds because of the dogs."

Ahem. Those are my kitchen towels. How dare he call my kitchen towels rags.

Unfortunately, I finally have to admit to myself they are rags. Ripped, shredded, frayed, stained, sorry looking rags. But I can't put them in the rag bag because then I won't have any kitchen towels. And some of you might say, "Geez, just go buy some." But to me, it's not all that easy to just go and buy new kitchen towels. I was a chef. I look for something special in a kitchen towel. It has to be 100% cotton, it has to feel soft to the touch, it has to absorb water quickly, it can't fade, or shrink, and most especially, I just have to like it. I know, picky picky picky. Besides, unless the old kitchen towels are completely threadbare, I refuse to part with them. I'm a big recycler and unless it's absolutely useless, I can use it somewhere else.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I've been reworking THE LADY'S MASQUERADE. This was the first book I ever finished. I love this story. I love the plot. It's sweet, and fun, two cousins fight over a woman, it has a little mystery, and Lady Olivia, and the ending is just such a surprise. When I finished it 4 years ago, it was beautiful, brand new, and I was oh-so-proud of it.

But let me tell you what, working with an original 4 year old manuscript that is horribly formatted and horribly executed is about to make me crazy. What was once a beautiful new kitchen towel, is now a big old stained, frayed, ripped rag. If I told you half the mistakes I made with this ms. you'd probably gasp, and then laugh your head off.

Now most people say throw your first book under the bed with the bunnies and leave it there. Never let it see the light of day. I can see why, which I probably should have done. Compared to what I'm writing today, it's a rag. But I couldn't. I loved this story too much. Besides, as a recycler, I have to try and do something with it, right?

Tell me -- Where's your first book? Is it snuggling with the creatures under the bed, hiding in a drawer, or have you revived it, put it the laundry with lots of bleach and hung it on the line?


Laura Pauling said...

I loved my first story too and ended up completely rewriting it a couple years ago! Still love it. :)

SA Larsenッ said...

I find no reason why you shouldn't work on this book. You've grown over those past years and I'm sure you'll find the best avenues to make the manuscript shine. :D

Stacy McKitrick said...

My first one is tucked away, waiting for the day it can see the light. And that day will come, I've no doubt about that. I love the story too much to just shove it under the bed and forget about it!

Em-Musing said...

LOL on the kitchen towels, I hear ya. The cleaning lady here used to put my kitchen towels in the wash with fabric softener. Yuck! I don't want my towels to have that filmy feeling. I now hide the towels. When I move to my new home here, I'll be bringing my own 100% white cotton towels - can't get them here that I can find. And my first manuscript is screaming at me from inside the drawer, "I'm good, so please take me out of the draw and submit me!" But do I dare believe it?

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- I'm so glad I'm not the only one.

Sheri -- I think that's the key -- how much I've grown as a writer so I can now see the mistakes I couldn't back then.

Stacy -- Good for you. Let me know when you break it out again.

Em -- How long has it been in the drawer? A couple of years is usually good indicator.

Jen Daiker said...

Anne this post couldn't have come at a better time. I'm one who is dusting off my first MS and ready to tackle it again. I loved the story, believed in it, and now have a better understanding of what I was trying to do. Talk about bad dialogue, messy formatting, and all around incorrect words.

It's amazing to see myself grow and end up right back at the first manuscript I ever wrote. I can tell you this much, when I'm done with this piece it might just be the one.

Bish Denham said...

My first novel was a mess, but I loved it so much I hauled it out, not once, but twice and did some major work on it, turning all the telling into showing, changing tense and the ending. You just read it.

Don't give up, Anne.

jbchicoine said...

My first completed novel is over twenty years old. I wrote it in a spiral bound notebook and finally typed it on a type-writer (we still used those back in 1989. Currently, it sits in a file--still hard-copy. It's just that bad. I will never try to do something with it, though I did recycle one of the lines, lol.

About 6 years ago, I made another attempt at a full length novel and came up with 153k words. It was so unruly (and nonpunishable). I had to set it aside, but it was resurrectable. I think it has polished up pretty nicely, now that 50+k words have been hacked off and I can actually see the real story well enough to polish it, lol!

Anne Gallagher said...

Jen -- Isn't it funny what a difference a few years can make? And it's so nice to see just how far we've come in our writing.

Bish -- THAT was a very good story my friend. A VERY GOOD story! Thanks for letting me read it. I still think it should have pics. That would make a fantastic middle grade book.

Bridget -- You should see my stuff from 20 years ago! I'd burn i but every once in a while I need a good laugh.

This ms. I've resurrected came in at 143K the first time I wrote it. Then at 105. Now at 91. I'm still thinking it could come in somewhere around 87. We'll see what happens.

Linda G. said...

Though I jokingly call it my "drawer novel," CATSPAW really resides in a special manuscript box decorated for my by TG. And on my hard drive, of course.

Keep working on THE LADY'S MASQUERADE. You'll take it from rags to riches in no time. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't give up on that frayed manuscript! It can be fixed, even if it has to be completely rewritten. After all, I rewrote my first piece.
So if I can do, you'll produce a masterpiece!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I don't really love my first story. It really does stink. LOL But my second story...that is a story I would love to clean up and try to submit again.

Rick Daley said...

I totally get your affection for your well-worn towels. I spent many years in the kitchen professionally, too.

My first novel is on a back burner. I finished it, queried and got a partial request, but the feedback (and decline of the full) prompted a re-write. In the middle of said re-write, other works picked up steam and my focus shifted. Someday I will go back to FATE'S Guardian, though, and I will make it kick ass.

February Grace said...

Ah, my first novel Fireworks Flowers is awaiting my attention to fix what's wrong with it. I understand what it needs now. It's not a disaster (It was considered by an agent for awhile) but I know it needs polish. I've been too stuck on the literary romance with that bit of steampunk to give it the attention it deserves. But as soon as Godspeed gets wherever it's going to go (self pubbed or I submit to small presses, trying to decide now) then I will go back to Fireworks and give Aidan and Emily their due.

My second novel however...LOL. That one was written with one person in mind, and will likely never ever seen the light of day. Though that one person did love it so I was happy with that.

Great post!

February Grace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
February Grace said...

sorry blogger hiccup!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You may not be able to turn those tattered dish towels pristine again, but I'm betting on you to polish that first ms into a shiny gem. If you still see value in it, the value is there.

Me? Not so sure. I've done a lot of writing over the years, but have only written one novel. I won't bore you with its long history, but I'm hoping THIS is the year I finally consider it as polished as I can get it. (IF I can ever drag my sorry butt away from Blogger long enough to do it!) But like you're attached to those towels? That's the way I am with a lot of things. In spite of all the sets of perfectly lovely dishes I have, I have my "favorite" mismatched, chipped mug, saucer, and bowl I always reach for first. Hopefully, my long-suffering WIP isn't like one of those flawed dishes I can't bring myself to relinquish.

Johanna Garth said...

My first books are in a box. I never look at them but I like knowing they are there.

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- I love that title CATSPAW. I was actually looking for one the other day.

Alex -- I wouldn't say masterpiece, but something with decent grammar and no head hopping would be nice.

Jennifer -- Isn't that good that you have something to fall back on.

Rick -- I'm so glad someone understands about my affection for towels. I wondered what happened to FATE'S GUARDIAN. And yes, it will kick ass.

Bru -- I hope you do do something with Godspeed. I liked what I read so far. As for writing for one person, print it up and give it to them as a present.

Susan -- You'll know when the time is right to do something with your book. And I'm sure you'll be able to let it go. I also have my favorite "things", not just towels. I'm a mess with that.

Johanna -- It's comforting to know all that hard work is somewhere and not just in a landfill. It means something. I get it.

Donna Hole said...

Cool story about the towels. I know how you feel, I have things I should dispose of too but I've them so long I can't bear to part with. When I pack my dishes I wrape them in towels instead of newpaper too.

I'm still working on my first novels. Sometimes I go all out for the editing, sometimes I just read it and love it. I don't listen to those that say there is no way to use what writing skills I've learned to get that thing polished and presentable.

some day . .


DL Hammons said...

I don't actually follow that philosophy about throwing your first book under the bed. If the foundation is sound (plot - premise), then anything can be salvaged. I've always planned on returning to my first book and doing the same thing! :)

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Anne,

TEN years ago, I got a pack of 100 white kitchen towels from an old restaurant I worked at...

It was literally only last week that I threw the last one away... and I was sad in doing so... but it was more holy than me :)

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who appreciates a good kitchen towel/rag :)

Sarah Pearson said...

My first book is sitting, printed out, on the table as I type this. Something made me go back to it and I'm seeing if it can be saved :-)

Susan Fields said...

I just read an interview with an established author who says that she always writes a first draft and then throws it away and starts over. I know your ms isn't a first draft, but that may work for you too. If you really love the story but the execution is making you crazy, maybe it would be easier to start over from scratch.

My first book is still out there on my computer. I doubt I'll ever do anything with it. For one thing, it's MG and I'm a huge YA fan now.

Patti said...

I still love my first story and every once in a while I dabble into to see if I can make it stronger.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i don't have a problem with putting MSs away. But i also think it's kind of dumb to write them off forever. If you can break it out, blow of the dust, and improve it, might as well!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I honestly don't really remember my first book. It's been too long, and when we uploaded a virus years ago, we had to reformat the hard drive and I lost a large number of manuscripts, shorts stories, and poems. But given that I wrote it when I was 17, it probably was not very good. But my first YA, well, a different story. It still has major issues, and I probably would have to completely re-vision it in order to make it viable, so I'm not ready to even look at it yet. Someday, maybe. So I haven't tossed it. Just shelved it until I'm ready.

Anne Gallagher said...

Donna -- We all work at our own pace in our own time. I let my book sit for 3 years before I looked at it again. But I do think it is time for new kitchen towels.

Don -- Precisely my point. It's salvageable. Now the books from 20 years ago, those are a different story!

Mark -- A Man after my own heart. There's just something about a good kitchen towel.

Sarah -- Good for you. Even if you can't rescue the whole thing, there might be gems in it for later use.

Susan -- Basically, I am writing from scratch. There are some things, such as descriptive narrative I'm keeping, but most of the dialogue and a lot of the POV I've had to change.

Patti -- I hear you. There are always ways to improve. Little bits at a time.

Sarah -- You're right, we did meet over this book.

Carolina -- I can't fathom losing all that work. I would be a mess. I have several stalled WIP in my files. Some I haven't looked at in years. And someday I hope to get back to them. Hope being the operative word.