The journey of the trunk novel usually has the following trajectory:
You’ve dragged your manuscript from the depths of the trunk or bottom drawer.
It's been tucked away for the last few years under a pile of warranties for goods you no longer own and a bundle of birthday cards you haven’t had the heart to throw out.
Or maybe, like me, you’d sentenced it to literary life imprisonment.
Stamped with the words 'Never To Be Released'.
But you decide to give it a reprieve, brush off the dust and settle down to read it.
You wince a lot at your over-written sentences, flowery descriptions and cliches.
Or maybe the writing’s not too bad but your characterisation is patchy and your plot is full of holes.
After all, you’ve grown a lot as a person and a writer since you wrote it.
Trunk Novel Resurrection
But if, when you come to the end, you think, ‘Even with its faults it’s a good story,’ you’re on the right path to falling in love with your novel again.
Here’s how to rekindle the passion:
Think back to when you first had the idea, what inspired you to write that particular story?
Was it based on an experience you had, a news item, a book you’d read?
Or was it just a random idea that popped into your head?
My trunk novel Perfect Sex takes place in the milieu of internet dating.
At the time I’d dabbled in the waters a bit myself and an idea occurred to me:
‘What if you dated as many men as you could and then wrote a book based on your experiences?’
That was the starting point for my novel, in which my protagonist does that very thing, with unexpected consequences.
Remember the excited spark deep within you that made you plonk your butt down and write even when you were dead tired?
How your skin tingled on the days it was all coming together, the delicious anticipation as you neared the finish line?
Remember The Good Times
I remember jumping out of my chair and punching the air after typing the words 'The End'.
It was 6.30pm on a Friday night and I was due to meet friends at 7pm for dinner, so was able to celebrate in style.
It was only the first draft and there was still lots to do, but for a brief period I felt ten feet tall.
Taking yourself back to the time you were writing it will help you re-capture your initial enthusiasm for your novel.
Like thinking back to your first dates with your spouse/partner and re-living that first flush of excitement.
Research the genre of your novel by finding out what’s in the market today.
Read some contemporary novels by different authors in that genre.
If you haven’t already, become a member of readers sites such as Goodreads or Library Thing and read reviews of books similar to yours.
In that way you get a clear idea of what’s being written in your genre and where your novel fits in.
Review your plot. Is it still fresh and relevant or is it a bit hackneyed or outdated?
If the latter, think of ways you can tweak it to make it more contemporary or original.
How can you make it stand out from the crowd?
Updating Your Trunk Novel
Fortunately for me, internet dating is still as popular today as it was when I wrote the first draft of Perfect Sex in 2003.
But there are certain aspects I have to update.
Small details such as giving everyone iPhones instead of mobile phones.
Also, larger changes such as having my protagonist publish her novel as an e-book instead of traditional publishing.
Examine your characters. Do they still jump out of the page at you as real people?
Or are they a bit wishy-washy or inconsistent?
Should you get rid of a few minor characters to tighten up the story?
Or maybe add a couple to give more depth?
Are there any changes you should make to the protagonist to make him/her more sympathetic, believable or intriguing?
I’ve decided that some of my minor characters are cliched.
One of my aims is to make them more quirky and interesting.
At the same time, ensuring they stick to their supporting role and don’t try to take over the story.
An interesting challenge!
Of course there are many other aspects of your novel you’ll need to look at, but the plot and the characters are usually the most obvious on your first re-read.
Think back to your inspiration for your novel.
Find your niche in the marketplace and make a list of the changes needed to make it stronger, tighter and more relevant and – voila! You’re in love again!
Have I missed anything?
Do you think love a second time round can work? (when it comes to novels, that is).
Let me know in the comments below.
Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the superb work!
I’m glad you enjoy it and thanks so much for your comments and taking the time to express your appreciation.
Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so
I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly
enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for beginner blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.
Sorry I took so long to reply -I had a break over Xmas and am still getting back into work mode. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. As to my recommendations, my number one would be to write on topics that interest you because your passion will shine through and make your blog enjoyable to read. If you don’t enjoy writing your blog you’ll find it too difficult to stay with it over the long term. Then you have to promote your blog to find readers whom you can engage with. There are so many ways to do that (and lots of information on the internet about it)but being on Facebook and Twitter is a start. Good luck!
My trunk manuscripts find their way there because I venture off on a new project which takes priority. I have recently unearthed one due to a blog promotion called The Next Big Thing. It was great because I re -immersed myself in the story and realized from the response I got just how much it moved people. Plus there’s there’s always that valuable thing of reading the ms with new eyes, as you mention.
That manuscript definitely sounds like one worth working on. The fresh eyes are good – sometimes I unearth gems and sometimes I shudder at what I find!
The second time around can and does work. It’s weird, but I’ve never written anything that I can’t go back to and improve on. And I do have a couple of draft novels that still fall into that category.
This year I’ve been so occupied with other things that I can’t recall when I sat down to write anything creative except the occasional blog. But I will get to it when family affairs settle down a bit and I can once more concentrate enough think through a plot to see how I can improve it.
Keep up the enthusiasm and effort. Love it!
Thanks for your encouragement Peter. I agree, there’s no piece of writing (that I’ve done anyway) that can’t be improved. But you’d drive yourself crazy trying to write the perfect novel, so I guess the secret is knowing when you’ve done enough re-writing. Good topic for another blog post! Hope next year is more productive for you.