Trusting Your Instincts

I have a manuscript that is dear to my heart. It has been revised backward and forward and six ways from Sunday. It was turned down again and again by editors for the same reason: having elements of both middle grade and YA. The problem became, do I age up, or age down? In my heart I knew the answer, but wasn’t ready to take the plunge. So I put the story away.

For three years.

At the time I was ready to try something different. I moved on to a new project—one that ended up being my debut novel! But I also realized I had too much invested in that earlier manuscript to make a wise decision about its fate. Physically, emotionally, mentally, there were too many elements of me poured into the words on the page. (I should note that I’d previously written two other failed manuscripts.)

A lot of people will tell you this is the perfect time to just let the thing go. To count it as a learning experience and move on. And I did try. Several times. But my instincts—my heart—said no. I was determined not to shelve it for good.

So I wrote and polished another new manuscript, while allowing that stubborn one to simmer in the background. For it to ever have a chance at selling I knew it would have to be revised eventually. Part of the reason for letting so much time pass was the hope of gaining some emotional distance, but much of it was simple procrastination. I assumed that such a drastic revision would be painful and lengthy.

And then, just this month, I pulled that puppy out and revised it in five days flat. It wasn’t planned. Nothing had really changed. But I felt a pull. A call. Some intangible instinct told me I was ready. And I listened.

I won’t say that the revision was pain-free—it wasn’t. But every time I hit that “delete” button, I knew it was the right thing to do. I trimmed 7,000 words, and it is now a solidly middle grade story. Whether it will ever sell, I don’t know. But personally and professionally, I’m content with the novel’s journey.

The popular phrase is to “kill your darlings,” but maybe it’s different for every manuscript, and maybe you have to listen really hard for that little voice to tell you which ones to fight for. In a business that is so often harsh, unpredictable, and glacially slow, there is real worth in saving something for yourself—something that has nothing to do with business. Allowing something close to your heart, a piece of writing you adore, to endure without that cruel red pen slashing it to bits. Art is not only about improving, moving forward, and listening to everyone else. It’s also about creating. Taking chances. And feeding your own soul.

Instinct is a powerful force. Impossible to define, but all too easy to ignore. I’m learning to listen for that voice more often—and to trust that it will lead me down favorable paths.

_______________________________

Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.

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