Mae Clair: The Problem WIP…Phoenix or Pyre?

What do you do with the story that refuses to settle into a niche? Resurrect it in a new form, or toss it onto the pyre of works that won’t ever see the light of day? Case in point: I’ve been nurturing a manuscript for over twenty years that has been through metamorphosis upon metamorphosis.

Back ‘in the day’ I wrote a novella called HERALD OF THE STORM. Today, it would classify as urban fantasy. Back then, I viewed it as magical realism (though that line is still blurry to me). It had a seventeen-year-old lead character using magic to battle the forces of evil in a modern setting. Unfortunately, there was no such thing as young adult fiction and, unless you were Ray Bradbury, most readers didn’t sniff around magical realism.

No matter. I liked it enough to develop it into a full-fledged novel, adding secondary characters and a complex family history along with a generations-old curse and an unsolved murder. When all was said and done, I was left with a novel that wasn’t marketable. I tucked it away and forgot about it until, years later, I cleaned it up and slapped a new title on it–ELF-SHINE. *cringe* I should clarify, I hate that title. It didn’t matter though. There was still no market. Back in the drawer it went again, where it languished for many moons, collecting dust.

About ten years ago I dug it out and did an extensive rewrite. The lead character went from seventeen to twenty-three, I upped the magical element, cut some of the secondary threads and strengthened others. Now I had an urban fantasy, layered in mystery, with several POV characters. Hmm. Still problematic. Sense a pattern here? You guessed it…back in the drawer.

Recently, I stumbled over it while scrounging up material for a Mythical Monday post. I gave it a quick look-see, realizing the markets have changed (exploded!) and new writing opportunities exist. I could go back to my original seventeen-year-old protagonist and market the manuscript as YA. I’m not sure I want to do that (some of the more adult elements appeal to me), but I’m starting to realize this story has life –nine of them like a cat or, at the very least, the rebirth powers of a mythical bird.

After all this time, HERALD OF THE STORM has the potential of turning into a phoenix.

Whether I resurrect it in a new form, old form, or one in between, I’m thankful I hung on to it and didn’t toss it on the pyre.

Do you have any moldy WIPs stashed away? What’s your solution…phoenix or pyre?

17 thoughts on “Mae Clair: The Problem WIP…Phoenix or Pyre?

  1. I have one. Mine is erotic sci-fi and I started it eleven years ago and finished it around seven years ago. Like you I had some problems: one, I had numerous POV characters and lots of secondary threads. Two, erotic sci-fi was *barely* marketable then. Today there is more of it. It hasn’t exploded like urban fantasy has which leaves room for that to occur because I see the genre gaining momentum. Mine must be six-hundred MS Word pages–possibly more so I may be able to do two or three books but, again like you, I need to refine it, nix some things etc. It’s a project I’ve intended to work on but real life and health issues have gotten in the way. It sits and patiently waits for me to pay attention to it 🙂


    • WOW! 600 page? You definitely have 2-3 books in that, Cadence. How wonderful! The interesting thing is I really like books with multiple POV characters but it’s so often frowned upon, at least in romantic fiction. I do think sub-genres like urban fantasy, fantasy, and sci-fi allow more room for it.

      I am so sorry to hear about the health issues. i didn’t realize. I’m crossing my fingers all works out for you and you’ll find time to enjoy your passion for writing! Thank you, as always, for dropping in! 🙂


      • Thank you Mae for your good wishes for me 🙂 You can get away with multiple POV from 2 or 3 characters by using one per chapter. If your publishing house won’t allow that (which I think is silly) and you feel that the multiple POV tells the story best, then consider the wonderful world of indie publishing for that story. Good luck with it – Phoenix all the way!


  2. The current WIP is composed of three other works. I never toss ideas or story starts I have tons of stuff in my folder as never know when will be needed and I have dug into it. You are just way ahead of your time Mae 😀
    As you are aware for reasons beyond my control I am not writing too much at the moment.


    • I think it’s good to hang onto things, Sue. I admit to tossing some complete novels I wrote many, many moons ago but they were really dreadful. Ugh! I’ve also come across a few story starts that have me scratching my head because i have no clue where i was headed with them, LOL.

      I think your current WIP has the potential to spawn a series. 🙂 It will be waiting when you’re ready to dive in again!


  3. I have a wip like this too. It’s kind of a ghost story, kind of inspirational, kind of horror-y, and kind of contemporary. Still don’t know what I’m going to do with it, even though I just rewrote the ending and feel better than ever about it. I decided to enter it in a contest in a paranormal romance category. Who knows, maybe it’ll do well, maybe it won’t. At least someone will get to read some of it:)


    • Glad to prod you in that direction, Alicia. I love historicals and I enjoy a lot of YA fic. This sounds like a wonderful mix, and the YA market is really hot right now. It’s definitely a great time to dust it off!


  4. I don’t have aany WIPs stashed away, but I say phoenix! Do yoour best with it, submit it
    and see anyone wants it …I’m betting they do!! Given the market right now. Can she shoot a bow??



    • LOL, good one, Diane! 🙂 And thanks for the confidence boost. I will definitely be looking at this WIP again and turnig it into a phoenix. There must be a reason I’ve held onto it this long!


  5. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, I don’t have any old WIPs to resurrect. You story does sound fascinating, Mae! I think it is definitely marketable. Especially nowawdays that there is such a mix of genres out there. Very exciting!


    • Thanks, L.J. I am going to do something with it eventually. Just finished my latest and now I’m off into editing mode. Wow – – I’ve got so many finished novels that need reworked, I think I have plenty to keep me occupied for years to come, LOL!


  6. Mae, I’m definitely a packrat and I never get rid of any WIPs. Heck, I even hang on to scenes that I cut from manuscripts, just in case. LOL I feel like sometimes we need to learn HOW to write a particular story, and maybe we’re not ready yet — so it’s best to set it aside and let it simmer while writing other things. So I definitely vote for phoenix. And there’s always the possibility of self-publishing a good story that may not fit in just one niche. 🙂


    • Great point, Donna. And that might just be what ends up happening with my ‘phoenix’ if I can’t make it fit into a suitable niche. I’m too attached to it to toss it.

      Good for you for hanging onto all those WIPs and scenes! You never know when one will start screaming for attention, sprout wings, and turn into a beautiful fiery bird/gem of a story. Writers and packrats unite! 😀


    • Thanks, Sheri.:) I definitely intend to rework this one again . . . though it may have to go the Indie route if I don’t want to give up my multiple POV characters. I guess I need to nail it down to a genre first (or a blend of two) and then decided!

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment 🙂


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