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Love Is Mandatory

Most writers will, at one point or another, ask themselves: revise, or trunk? Meaning: do I put in the work to fix this manuscript up, or do I put it aside and start something new? And how do I know if it’s time to trunk?

There’s no one correct method of figuring out an answer to that question, but there is a place to start, and it’s with love.

Imagine yourself in the following scenario:

CONGRATULATIONS! You got an offer from an agent and sign with him/her. And after that, he/she wants some extensive revisions. You work on them for months. You turn them in. Agent says, “Great! Now how about fixing this, and this, and this?” So you work again. You turn them in. And if you are lucky, Agent says, “Sweet. This is ready to go on submission. Peace out, I’ll talk to you later.”

(Does anyone say ‘peace out’ anymore? I digress.)

Weeks of rocking back and forth and checking your inbox ensue. Perhaps months. But then, the day comes: your agent tells you that a publisher wants your book. SWEET.
And then you begin another overhaul. One round of revision turns into two. Two turns into three. Three (or more) turns into line edits. Line edits turn into copy edits and first pass pages and holy crap, how many times have you read this book? At least a bazillion.

Finally, you’re done. But wait. It’s still 12-24 months until that book comes out. And people are asking you about it. And you talk. You do as many blog interviews as you can. You anxiously await the book’s release. It’s what everyone asks you about. You summarize it for your dentist, your doctor, your neighbor, your mom’s friend, your friend’s brother.

The book comes out. You talk about it more. If you’re lucky, you get to go to different places and talk about it to groups of students, or groups of readers waiting for you to sign it.

(Okay, I think you get the picture.)

THE POINT IS THIS: if, with your current project, that scenario sounds tiresome to you, and you believe that you will get sick of your book after the fifth round of revisions, or the ninth time you’re asked the same question about it…trunk it.

Maybe all of that won’t happen for you. But maybe it will. And if it does, you will become frustrated and unmotivated if you do not love your book.

So don’t work on something just because you have worked on it in the past. Don’t work on it just because you don’t want to admit defeat, or because you think it will sell better than your other ideas. Don’t work on it for any other reason than that you love it wholeheartedly and believe it is amazing, because if everything goes well, you can’t ditch it and you can’t put it aside if you get tired of it. It is yours and it will always be yours.

You must, must, must be in love. All other considerations are secondary.

Veronica Roth

Veronica is the author of the NYT bestselling YA dystopian thriller series Divergent, published by Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books. She's also a graduate of Northwestern University, a Christian, and A Tall Person, among other things.

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  1. Thank you for this post. It confirms a recent decision I made. It makes me feel better to hear that people do get to that point.

  2. This is so, so true. SO TRUE.

    I wrote a book in 2005 and ended up going through 22 revisions on it. I can still recite the opening chapter, nearly word for word.

    And yes, I still love it.

  3. This post was meant for me! I am on the 11th draft of a novel I started 2 years ago and I just can't quit it. Some days I am so frustrated with, but I love the characters and I am going to get them to their end, maybe even a happy end. Then we'll see! But I love them enough to finish their story, so finish I will!

  4. I don't know, I'm at the point where I have edited mine a billion times, got it with an agent, edited it a few more times, and now its going to be out in the world looking for someone to pick it up. Don't get me wrong, I love the book, but I really don't want to read it ever again lol, I know I will have to, but good god!

  5. First of all, I adore the graphic of hugging text! What a great visual for a romance novel ;-)

    As in any longterm relationship, there will be moments of frustration and disappointment. Try to remember what excited you about the concept in the first place. Don't give up too soon.

    But I have to admit, I'd never make it through 11 drafts or 22 revisions. I admire your tenacity, Elizabeth and Daisy_Whitney. Best of luck to both of you!

  6. I'm still at such an early stage, but I'm in it for the long haul! Great advice. Reading this means I know in the future if I have to put it aside, I won't feel guilty or like a failure for doing so.

  7. I wish my books only had 22 revisions. lol You are absolutely correct about loving your book, and it must be tough love. You have to love it enough to know when to change things...even if that means cutting out entire chapters. Wonderful post!

  8. Excellent post!! Looking at things from the long view!!

  9. Um, that pic/graphic thingy is AWESOME.

    Excellent post!!!

  10. Animated graphic is so, so, cool! She's kinda weird and scary though, but I like her!
    Don't we all love the books we're writing, right from the get go? The edits, just make us go from steamy infatuation to full blown meaningful love!

  11. I kinda sorta said the same thing when I rewrote my just-released-novel and fell in love with it all over again. I've probably read it now what seems like 100 times and each time, my heart tugged at the right times, I laughed at the places I wanted others to laugh and fell in love all over again. :) AWESOME post!

  12. Lol this is what my adviser said to may dissertation, it frustrating but it is so true. They are only here to help make the book better.

  13. Aw, Veronica, you're just a hopeless romantic. It's good advice. I have existential angst about this ALL THE TIME!

    Also - I totally still say peace out.

  14. Great post.

    My friends call me stubborn because I refused to give up on the book (2 books, actually) I wrote about seven years ago. I believed wholeheartedly in these two stories and I loved them and the characters, I couldn't let them go just because editors didn't see their value. The books have gone through so many revisions over the years, but revisions I was very happy to make because the books are much stronger and more entertaining.
    Book one--Forget Me Not (fitting--haha)-- will be published with Decadant Publishing this year (tbd) and I have no doubt my second book (which I'm going over again) will sell also.
    I don't like to give up, maybe it makes me stubborn to some, I prefer to call it persistent. =)

  15. great advice :) That actually doesn't sound tiresome to me, it sounds awesome, so I guess I shouldn't trunk it.

  16. Straight to the point! Love it. It is reassuring that my current project is the one I should be working on. I am totally in love with it. My last one however got curbed until I fall in love with it again. Thank you!

  17. What a wonderful post! This is some advice I will need in the future. Thank you!!

    P.S. I am LOVING the book hug.

  18. I'd never thought of this, but it's so true.

    I love all the concepts I turn into MSs. My attention span is really short so I can't get through them otherwise. Who knew that would be an advantage? lol

  19. Masterfully worded, our manuscripts are our babies though, so I cringe on hearing the trunk reference. It is true that each of us will need to ask this very question. I will always remember the first time I asked it of my own work. The answer I gave myself was 'keep it,' but with conditions. Now I rewrite and expand, I edit and reread, I smooth out and rephrase. It would appear to be an endless cycle, but I still haven't got tired of the my little baby yet thank goodness.

  20. Talk about a timely post! I've been working on this manuscript for 2 years although I started all over from scratch during that time. I'm editing now, and all I really want to do is finish! I don't know if I love my characters, or even if I love the story. But I do know there's something for your mental health that says "yes, you CAN finish something" I'm not ready to trunk yet. Im ready to get it done and move on!

  21. I think it's a good sign that reading all of that just makes me feel excited and hope I get to be so lucky to do that kind of work. :)


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Item Reviewed: Love Is Mandatory Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Veronica Roth