I hesitate to post about this because no one can tell me what the right thing to do might be. Few have read the manuscript I'm talking about, and no one is inside my head to straighten out my own thinking. And hardly anyone knows what else is cooking in my world of writing. Still, I'm going to think out loud on this hazy Saturday morning.
I wrote a novel. It was the thesis for my MFA. It was long and complicated and parts of it were good. Parts weren't. Although I began in 2003 to publish short stories, to break through with a novel is tough. So, on advice from a writer I admire, I split the manuscript into two, and spent a good bit of time polishing the first of those two. The plan was to turn to the other half (now a separate book) when the first was under contract. I started sending queries to agents and when that didn't result in representation I contacted small presses. There are still an agent and one small press considering the manuscript, but I have zero optimism that the book will be published in its present form. The agents and editors who gave feedback (not many, but some, about whom I have a good feeling) said they loved the writing but not the plot.
So, what to do next? It wouldn't kill me to rework the plot of that book. I have some thoughts about what I would do to it. But at this point, does it make sense? I could still be revising that book when I'm 99 and I might not ever convince anyone to publish it.
I'm actually about to finish another book, unrelated to the first in any way, and I do have high hopes for this book. It may be that the new book will get my career moving, so that the first book will no longer feel like the millstone it now is. Or I may find that a taste of progress will give me the energy I need to fix what ails that first book. Time will tell.
The real question for me is, what project should I work on after this new book is done? My inclination at the moment is to take the second half of my original manuscript and polish that into a novel. It's already there. Some holes need to be filled, but it wouldn't take long to get it ready to send out. Or I could add those pages to the box where the other manuscript sits and turn my attention to a brand new project, a fresh idea, unburdened by old work.
My target date to make that decision is April 1.