Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
Trunking Exposed: 4 Reasons to Trunk a Novel
A few weeks ago I wrote about the great untrunking of Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN. It sparked much debate in our comments section. Many felt Lee’s book was never intended for public eyes and should have stayed trunked. While others felt glad the book came out of hiding.
True confessions time: I’m a trunker. And you should know I’m also guilty of untrunking.
All summer I’ve been hacking away at a trucked project, mostly because I needed some time away from the horror novel I’m working on. I reached the conclusion that while my kids are home on their school break, I can’t capture the right mind-set for writing super dark, gritty mayhem. There is just too much giggling and high-speed fun going on all around me to get my goth on. Since starting a new project seemed unwise, I reached back into my hard drive and reviewed my options. I found a book in second draft stage I’d abandoned. After reassessing the project I found I rather liked it. This led me to question why I trunked this novel in the first place. Since I have four trunked projects hiding away in my hard drive attic, I decided to expose my dark trunking secrets. Today I will tell you why each project earned a spot in my deep and dusty manuscript vault.
Although the publishing market is always changing, I managed to write a book that is perpetually in the wrong place at the wrong time. For one thing it’s in an overexposed and dying genre. Second there are negative geopolitical forces at work that make the chosen setting of the book a publishing pariah. There’s not much any writer can do about poor timing. The options are release the book through self publishing and make the best of a bad situation, or trunk the book and hope the market forces improves. Trends cycle. If I wait long enough it’s possible the political situation and genre saturation might improve.
Sometimes releasing the wrong manuscript can sabotage a writer’s long-term career goals. Most writers have their eye on the future; they want to write books for the rest of their lives and build a solid fan base. To do that, you need branding. The first few books any writer puts out set expectations and create a tone. Being consistent in terms of reader demographics and genre is going to help any new writer create a recognizable brand. Since my plan is to be a young adult writer, there are no advantages to releasing my contemporary suspense novel written for adults. An established author with faithful readers can skirt the expectations of their author brand. But a fledgling writer (like me) will only confuse my brand by releasing a book that hops to a different genre and age demographic.
Personal growth deficits:
Sometimes it takes more or a different life experience to write the story the way you know it should be written. I’ve trunked a project based on a tragic historical event because, although I love the story with all my heart and soul, I wasn’t doing the story justice. I felt I owed the survivors of this horrible event more passion! I knew if my version didn’t resonate with me, it would never touch a reader. I’m hopeful I just need more time and with it I will gain the right kind of perspective to make this story something special. However, if that personal growth never happens, I would rather see the project permanently trunked than released.
One of my first YA books never came together the way I’d hoped it would. The second act felt slow and predictable. The first 2/3 of the book has a great voice, but near the end of the novel I lost it. The plot was a little tired and the plot twist didn’t work. Plus I ended up with a romance element that might be too saturated with bad boy karma for my taste. This was the first book I wrote with a Hispanic protagonist, so it will always be near and dear to me, but just having character diversity is not enough to warrant keeping a book alive.
I’m not going to tell you which project I’ve untrunked, not until I see if I’ve been successful or not. But if you want to take a guess in the comments, or give me your reasons for why I should untrunk one of these projects, I will be fascinated to hear your thoughts. Also feel free to share your own untrunking success or failure stories. We are all here to learn, and we do that best when we share our experiences!
Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813). However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.
View all posts by Robin Rivera