Over the years I’ve done a lot of freelance fiction editing, mostly developmental. I send off the manuscripts with a critical analysis, a lot of developmental markup and some copy editing. Some of the authors go on to be published; their autographed works are on my bookshelves. Of the ones not published, about half come back to me and half don’t.
Every year I Google the names of a few of my “lost ones.” And I try to include as many as I can in my annual season’s greetings email in December. I nudge them a bit with: How’s it going? Are you still working on your book? Get any nibbles from publishers? That sort of thing. I really so want to know. Some of the stories — a lot of them — have been very good, some excellent. I remember a young adult fantasy novel with setting, plot and characters as unique and refreshing as I’d ever seen. There was another novel, a meaty, well-researched historical fiction that just screamed the first of a series. Yet another was a good love story with a to-cry-for ending.
I know what keeps people from finishing a work. There are financial reasons; that’s a big one. It takes money to take time off employment to write. It also takes energy, which can be hard to find at the end of a day’s work. Sometimes it’s one’s own illness or family responsibilities that become more important than finishing a novel. It can also be from burnout, especially with a large project. And it can be disappointment after three rejection letters. As a writer, I’m familiar with that one.
A few who have connected just simply say they’ve lost the desire to finish. They don’t say why, and I don’t ask. It’s too personal a question. That’s the one that makes me wonder what I could have done more. I’m already too honest with people, but could I perhaps have prepared them for the hard work of a revision? Worse: Did I neglect to tell them how important it is to enjoy the process of creation?
And then one pops up, out of the blue. The phone goes “ding” and I look down to see the words: “You probably don’t remember me or my book, but…”
I don’t even finish reading the email before I start replying that of course I remember them and wondered where they’d gone. For various reasons they had to set aside their book for two or three years. But now they have a revision they’re pretty happy with. Would I be interested?
Do you have any lost and found stories, about manuscripts, clients or your own inspiration?
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