There is one sure thing that unites us writers, a guilt that plucks away on the cords of our conscience. The source of that guilt? The existence of an unfinished manuscript. The novel you kept meaning to return to but for which you could never really bring yourself to sit down and push your nose to the grindstone. Perhaps it made you question your ability as a writer. Perhaps it was the beast that you could not wrestle into being because it became too challenging. And then you looked away for only a moment and some other sexy new idea came sidling by and before you knew it you were off and ever since you’ve felt like you’ve betrayed some part of yourself. Ask any writer, they will know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’ve decided to finally open the ex-file and attempt to shoe horn my mind into working with a novel that came to an abrupt stop a few years ago, unsurprisingly right in the murky middle. I know it will be a tough battle, mostly because my writing has continued to develop over the last few years and I worry that I won’t be able to access that same voice or that I will have lost touch with my characters’ voices. But what I’m most scared of is that I’ll begin work then give up on it again. A second failed attempt will definitely spell the end to this novel and I’m not someone who likes to leave anything unfinished. And this is where that guilt comes from. There’s probably some complex psychological term for people like me but the whole unfinishedness of it all makes me squirm. Can those unfinished manuscripts on your hard-drive really be resurrected or more importantly should they be?
There are writers and many industry pros who say that once the flow of one manuscript has stopped and the writer does not return to it, the novel is doomed or the idea never had chance of being any good and so the story petered out. I would agree that if the idea failed to engage the writer, then that may be so, but I would also say that some novels are more demanding on a writer than others and it may simply be that the writer was not emotionally or creatively ready to write that novel at that time.
My unfinished novel, WAKING TARA is set in Ireland in the Tara-Skryne Valley in County Meath. I had imagined that it was connected to my last adult novel, Dawn Solstice which is set in the Boyne Valley. WAKING TARA is not a sequel as such but written with similar themes. The story links past and present day Ireland with the majority of the action set in the late 19c and early 20c rural Ireland. The socioeconomic and political landscape during this time greatly interests me and I think when last working on it, I got quite distracted researching, so I need to make some definite decisions about how much and which real historical events need to be woven into the storyline.
I’ve already taken a tentative look over the existing work. Some of the plot problems that were proving a huge barrier previously, are now so easy to rectify that I wonder what on earth I was stressing about before – such is the wonder of distance and time from your manuscript. I hope to write a few posts with tidbits of research and how I’m coping (or not coping as the case may be) with returning to this novel. Watch this space, there’ll be more to come on WAKING TARA. So how about it? Do you have a buried novel you’re itching to resurrect?
Olivia Kiernan is author of DAWN SOLSTICE available here.
On Twitter: @LivKiernan