An Apocalypse At Hand…

I thought we’d do something just for giggles. A little game of WHAT IF.

What if the Apocalypse was at hand? Take your pick–poles shifting, solar flares, zombies…the point is, you have exactly 5 minutes to get out of your house and to safety. The kids, spouse, pets…all the other things you care about are taken care of. This 5 minutes is for saving one of your manuscripts.

Yes, you heard me…just ONE. No flashy thumb drive or laptop for you!

Okay, so this is a little like Sophie’s Choice. But there’s a point to it beyond causing heart palpitations, I promise. I want you to really think hard on what MS you would save if you had to choose. Which novel or story is closest to your heart and why?

For me, it isn’t a book that I’m currently shopping with my agent or even working on right now. It’s a book I wrote a long time ago–my first real novel. A YA fantasy called Orb Master.

Now this baby is riddled with cliches and purple prose, I kid you not. It is one scary-looking novel and is appropriately hiding on my hard drive somewhere. But still I would save it, and why? Because there is also something very special about it. It brims with imagination, largely because I wrote it before understanding a lick about ‘good writing’. So in other words, the internal editor didn’t hold sway over this one and someday I’d really like to dig it out again and see if it can be saved. There is power to the story of it…bad writing maybe, but power.

I’m pretty sure I could rewrite most of my books if I had to. But Orb Master…I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want to risk losing it, and the magic with it.

So what would you save–a polished, publishable draft? An old picture book you wrote more for yourself or your family than the market? Maybe a book where you experimented with the POV, chose a risky topic or character? Please tell me about it!


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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23 Responses to An Apocalypse At Hand…

  1. Roy Buchanan says:

    Ooooooooo! I loved the Orb Master. Critted the whole story over on CC. 🙂

    HMMMM, that’s tough decision, but I guess I’d save Sydney’s Swing.

  2. slcboston says:

    Whichever manuscript has the most useful material for the Apocalypse at hand. (And they said that “101 Ways to Survive Invasion by a Giant Sea Monster” would never get me anywhere.)

  3. Erica says:

    I think it would be the one I’m currently writing. It’s my favorite I’ve written, and has the most promise of publishing– someday. However, I would save my computer before that, and that has a couple on it, so…

    Great post!

  4. Mary Witzl says:

    But having said that, I’d be miserable about abandoning the women’s novel I’ve been working on. It’s just that I’m sure that one would come much more easily to me — it wouldn’t be such an effort to duplicate it.

  5. Mary Witzl says:

    God, what an awful choice to have to make!

    I’ve got the very first version of an ms I’m trying to sell right now, in hard copy in a box somewhere. I remember putting what I fondly thought were the finishing touches on it, thinking it was Hot Stuff when it was horribly overwritten, filled with repeated words, subplots that did not advance the narrative, extraneous characters and all sorts of rubbish. I wouldn’t save it; I’d save the version I’ve got now because I’ve sweated blood over it, and I still think (hope!) it’s got something of the original charm.

    But I know what you mean: I sometimes remember the way I used to teach, before I got my M.A. and knew the Right Way to do it. I was all heart then, and in many ways a more inspired teacher… I wish I could have saved a little of the teacher I once was.

  6. I’d grab every single thing in my house and die…hee hee…I have too many precious things.

  7. Angela says:

    Shannon, the title alone sounds like pure awesome!

    Word, obviously you’ve done something fantastic in those 30 pages–keep on it!

    Beyond Tourism, I used to handwrite all my short stories out. I felt like it slowed my brain down a bit and some days I miss that for my novels. But I hunt and peck, so it would take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to hand write them type it in.

    Creative A, I couldn’t agree more! That’s exactly how it feels to live with a story so long.

  8. Creative A says:

    Wow, so I was the first comment when I clicked on the comment link.

    I sometimes think the novels that take years to write are my best novels. There’s something about living with a story that long that makes it all real. When you write about it, there’s a sense that the characters have lived before this story and will keep living after it.

  9. Definitely save my current WIP. It’s been in my head for over a year. Lucky for me I’m handwriting it all out.

    My friends and mom say it has a complicated plot from what I give as a description but they say that is a good thing. Here’s to hoping it comes out well.

  10. WordWrangler says:

    I have almost all my pbs memorized. strange, but true. So, I wouldn’t waste my one choice on those. I’d pick the story I have been writing, setting aside and writing (again!) for the last 7 years. It’s a mystery. I’m only 30 pages into it and I don’t know where it’s going. But my dad read the little bit I had written before he passed away. He was as huge mystery/thriller buff. His response to part of the story my mom read to him?
    “WHERE’S THE REST OF IT??” he asked.
    “I don’t know,” my mom replied. “She hasn’t written it yet.”
    “Then tell her to get busy!”

    One of MANY reasons I want to finish it. 🙂

  11. I would save my first picture book The Naughty Boy Factory. It’s too near and dear to my heart to leave behind!

    I love your blog, btw! 🙂

  12. Angela says:

    So many great answers!

    Merc, you are so sweet! I’m glad you could see something worthy in that book–and I love that you ask about it now and again. I will open the crypt it’s sealed in one day, promise!

    FL is one of yours I haven’t read. It sounds awesome. One thing I love about your writing is that you always bring your characters face to face with what shakes them the most and make them deal with it. That and that your characters are always witty/sarcastic. I love that so much–love the ‘tude!

    CR, one of the reasons why I asked is because I think the ones that we hang onto must have something very strong in them for us to still think of them, especially when they’ve been put away for a long time. Maybe one day a group of us shoudl ressurect our old scripts and trade them with someone else to see what can be done to bring them back into the world again.

    Frodo, er, Donna, yes I think you’re on the right track with the photo…

    PJ, it is funny how some books we feel pretty sure of being able to recreate, and others, not. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Vijaya, I think lots of people feel as you do–the book they are working on becomes the one they are most attached to. I know I feel like that to some extent, especially when I know I’m close to getting it right at last!

    Bigwords–an 18th century fantasy comic? How awesome is that? I love it!! Absolutely something you wrote when you were a teen needs to be saved. I’ll hold the zombies back while you get it!

    Creative A, see, the book I would save is also the one I thought about for years and years before I finally decided to write it, so I know just what you mean.

    Tricia, I agree, it’s hard to fathom losing a current project when so much work went into it!

    Martha, that first MS is a special one, isn’t it?

    Christina, I think unfinished books often hold power over us because we haven’t fully seen if we can transcribe what’s in our head onto the page, and so it sticks with us as an unknown. I have leaving books unfinished–in fact I’m finishing off one right now that I started a few years ago for Nano to get me to the 50K word count. I loved going back to it and it feels so good to get back into the story again.

    Ann, there’s something to be said for respecting the decision to step away from a project and I agree, we do need to look forward sometimes.

    Again, great responses! Keep em coming!

  13. This is a hard question. I think, though, I have to save the one I’m currently revising. I put the others away, and I have to respect those decisions.

  14. Oh, this is a good one! I guess the last one I wrote although my historical fiction that is still not finished was so hard to write, so yeah it’s tough.

    By the way, The Orb Master sounds like such a cool title!

  15. Martha Flynn says:

    What a great question! My first manuscript, without a doubt. 🙂

  16. I think it would be the current novel I’m working on just because I’m loving it and want to keep going. But my heart would break to lose the other novel that’s in revision stage. I love them for different reasons.

  17. Creative A says:

    Ooh, first comment!

    This is a really interesting idea, Angela. I’m stumped. There are two novels of mine that have always stood out as being very special. One is my current WIP, which is so different from what I’ve written before, but it’s the best thing I’ve written in about three or four years. It feels real, and it implements a premise I’ve been dying to use for…well…years!

    The other one is a story I began writing three times, has lots of issues, but has such an intensely powerful core. I feel like I just need to find the exact scope for it, and the thing will take off. And the voices of the characters are more real than any other I’ve ever written.

    If I HAD to pick *sob* it would have to be my current WIP. I think I could probably write the old idea from scratch…I don’t know if I could get the voices write, but I would have the story. I don’t know if I could ever get my WIP back the way it is.

    Can’t wait to read the other comments.

  18. BigWords says:

    On different days it would be different things. My zombie Apocalypse epic would be irrelevant if the world was taken over by the walking dead, and I figure that most of the SF epic I have in pieces would be pointless… I would probably take the 18th century fantasy comic I started when I was fourteen. It sucks as a story, but the pictures are pretty – when the end of the world comes, which isn’t all that unikely, I’d probably want something nice to look at.

  19. Vijaya says:

    I always think that after family and pets, I’ll save my pictures because some of them are irreplaceable but you’ve taken care of that. Whew! So you couldn’t recreate that first novel of yours, eh? Probably true. You’re in such a different place now.

    I’d save the manuscript I’m working on right now because I’m loving it.

  20. PJ Hoover says:

    I’d probably save my finished YA. Hard choice, but my finished, unpublished MG I would feel confident writing again.

    Fun question!

  21. Donna says:

    No! It can’t die! I shall get posted on the intarwebs as a serial novel. 🙂

    And enter the Everybody Loves Raymond moment . . . Is it just me or that photo look like . . .

  22. C.R. Evers says:

    I would save my YA Fantasy Novel titled “Unseen” It’s the closest to my heart, but I’ve also had a lot of positive critiques and feedback on it. It has been rejected a couple of times, but I think it still has merit.

    fun post!

  23. Merc says:

    *hearts Orb Master like a fangirl* It still remains my favorite of your novels I have read. 😀 Despite all the flaws, you’re right–there’s a genuine magic about it. It’s one I still really really hope you’ll revisit one day. 😉

    I had to think hard about it. There are several candidates. “Riven” is a novel that is one of my few “preciouseses”–but the ideas are so entrenched in my mind, I could write it again (I’ve started–because the first two drafts didn’t do justice to what it’s really about). It’s one where, as a writer, I still need to work on my skills and mature more before I can properly do it justice.

    So I’d have to say I’d pick the novel I finished a few months ago, “Feral Legacy.”

    It was an experiment in voice and tense (third person, present tense) and follows a somewhat ‘coming of age’ story of a necromancer and how he turns into the man he is (the antagonist) in another novel. I feel it has potential to be very gut wrenching, because it shows how the MC tries for so long to be good in his situation, heal himself, and overcome the obstacles facing him–but ultimately he’s broken and changes into what he fears and hates and starts a downward spiral that nonetheless effects deep changes in several more characters who have a massive (positive) impact on their world.

    Yes, it had tons of flaws and the ending is really clunky and forced and it needs so much work… but there’s a passion in the writing. I wrote it in three months and couldn’t stop until it was finished. It has… something in it I’ve rarely felt/seen in my other novels yet. I know the plot, but I don’t think I could write it again and keep that ‘dark heart’ of it.

    Yeah. I think I could probably write the novels I like/want to keep over again from memory and scratch if I had to. That’s not one of them.

    *wipes sweat off forehead* Man, that was hard. 😛

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