Dust Bunny Books: Should You Revive Them or Let Them Die?

by Laura Drake

It’s been about two months since I wrote my post about writing two books at the same time (you can read it here.)  The only thing I’d change about my original advice is, do not work on two books at the same time that are at the same level of completion.

I’m now in the horrid, sagging, interminable middle of two books. It’s like traveling from NY to London in a rowboat — I may be getting somewhere, but it sure doesn’t feel like it! I think in the future, I’d do it again, if I were in the first third on one, and the last third on the other. It gives you something to look forward to.

But that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about resurrecting your ‘Dust Bunny’ book. You know, your first, or second book. The one you started because it called to you – the idea that wouldn’t die. So you wrote it, learning along the way. Maybe you even shopped it, but it didn’t sell (mine went out to 150 agents!)

Lynn Kelly – WANA Commons

So you put it under the bed.

I don’t know about yours, but mine was like Poe’s Telltale Heart – it kept calling to me. I mean, I lived the longest with this book. I felt like I could drive to Widow’s Grove, and visit Sam, and her dog, Bugs (oh wait, the original dog’s name was Rocky.)

I hate the trite term, ‘Book of my heart,’ but I’ll admit, that’s what this book was for me.

So, when my agent asked me, in that first phone call, what else I had, I mentioned my Dust Bunny Book. She liked the premise and asked to see it. After the excitement wore off, I panicked.

Holy crap, what had I done?

I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t looked at it in years. So I pulled it out, and dusted it off. The plot wasn’t too bad. The heroine was awesome. The craft needed a bit of work (I’d written it pre-Margie Lawson.)

But for the Love of Stud Muffins – the HERO!  I was red-faced, reading his preachy dialog, his clueless shallow personality. Why the heck would my heroine ever fall in love with a loser like that? He was the literary equivalent of a Ken doll, all hair and teeth and plastic.

p.s. Am I the only one who has problems writing men? Not their irritating habits, or their snappy dialog, or bathroom humor, but the deep down GUYNESS.  I feel like a voyeur, being in the hero’s head.  I don’t belong there.

Then my agent sold the book.

Okay, just because I’ve never done something before, doesn’t mean I can’t, right? That’s what I keep telling myself.

I had to strip out the old Ken doll hero, and insert a living, breathing one. He went from being a tall, lanky vet with red hair to a blue collar mechanic. (I used a young Springsteen as my model – yum!)

But of course, this changed the whole book. I wasn’t about to start over; after all, the bones of the book were there, right? Kinda. The problem is, the line between the old book and the new is blurring. The new hero is a recovering alcoholic. I forgot, and had the heroine give him a beer.  Duh.

It was made harder by alternating chapters with the other book I was writing at the same time.

Can you hear the panic in my voice? Time is ticking by.

Today I came to a decision. (No, my Alpha Dog won’t have to hide the razor blades.)  From today on, I’m working on the Dust Bunny book until it’s done.

No more alternating books – I’m just getting lost doing that.

The moral of the story:

Lynn Kelly – WANA Commons

DO NOT resurrect a Dust Bunny Book. You’re going to want to, I know. But remember Stephen King’s book, Pet Semetary? Once something dies, what gets brought back isn’t the Book of your Heart. It’s something else – something twisted. Sinister. Evil.

Writing this blog, I feel like I’m watching a scary movie, and the teenage girl is standing at the top of the dark stairs to the cellar. I’m screaming, Don’t do it!!!!

Leave the book to whatever horrible thing lives under the bed. Trust me, it’s safer that way.

Have you every tried to resurrect a Dust Bunny Book? What kind of outcome did you have?  Have you ever been tempted?

Laura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways or a serious cowboy crush. She writes Women’s Fiction and Romance, and in December, she sold three novels set in the world of professional bull riding to Grand Central. THE SWEET SPOT, in which a couple struggles to reclaim their lives after a tragic loss, will be released May of 2013.

In January, she sold her ‘biker chick’ novel, (Dust Bunny Book!) Road Song, to Superromance. It will be released sometime in 2013.

Laura resides in Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She’s a corporate CFO during the day, and a wife, grandmother, writer, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours. She is the current President of the Women’s Fiction Chapter of RWA.

http://LauraDrakeBooks.com  @PBRWriter

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35 Responses to Dust Bunny Books: Should You Revive Them or Let Them Die?

  1. lizkflaherty says:

    I’ve never done it (though I have one over there in the wings, kicking dust around.) My first book had so many points of view, there would be no possible way to get it down to just two , plus it’s on old floppies–somewhere–that are undoubtedly corrupted. Sweet memories, though. Sounds as though you’re having a good time!

  2. Bob Stewart says:

    I did chase a dusty rabbit, and with the help of an excellent editor at Novel Concepts — an ebook publisher — I caught it. Hidden Evil was the first book I had written. It did have all the standard rookie mistakes but I was able to overcome them and ripped out more than a hundred pages to make it a leaner read. My next dust bunny is being rewritten and will be epublished within a few months. The book I had my original success with was my third, Alias Thomas A. Katt. I had been a journalist for more than 40 years. The most difficult lesson to learn was the difference between journalism and fiction.
    Your blog was very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Bob, you have my utmost respect. I think I’m tenacious, but the thought of doing this to two books…makes me shudder. You’ve no doubt earned your badge of honor!

  3. Laura … doing two books at a time alternating chapters might make me feel like Sybil … or the kid whose head revolves and spits up green slime …yuck. Of course we all have one of those collecting dust in a dark place we need not revisit. Love that you have changed it and will make your first love a read we will all love. Sorry that it’s such a pain. But hey, you got four books sold in one year. Makes me think the horror of rewrites and endless queries is just the beginning🙂

    You read something from my first book on the blog the other day. All I’ll do with her is cull characters and settings and a few mishaps for other books or blog posts and that’s it. Now … my first mystery is another story … but I’ve run of time. Good edits and rewrites to you !!

    • LauraDrake says:

      I’m convinced, Florence, that the most important skill a writer can have is the inability to see when we should give up! Worked for me – it’ll work for you. Keep going!

  4. Sharla Rae says:

    As Laura’s crit partner, I have to say, I LOVE THIS DUST BUNNY BOOK! Readers will be glad she pulled this one out from under the bed.🙂

    • I’m with Sharla Rae on this one. Roadsong deserved resurrection. However, I’ll be whipping you along on the rewrites because I LOVE the new PBR book!
      Craaack!
      -Fae

      • LauraDrake says:

        Thanks Fae and Sharla — I know — why don’t one of you step up, and finish this one, so I can get back to the PBR one? After all, the one I’m NOT writing is my favorite!!!

        I see the whip is in the other hand, now. I think I’m in trouble.

  5. I’d like to get that ‘under the bed manuscript’ out of my mind – I think those must contain hearts and soul – it’s just sooooooooooooooooo bad. Makes me sad. I’m looking forward to your reads.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Don’t do it, Sheri! Seriously.

      Your old boyfriend from high school? In spite of your fond memories, he’s fat, bald, and has digestive issues. Really, he does. Focus on your NEXT book, and don’t look back!

  6. Kerry says:

    You said it brilliantly here:

    DO NOT resurrect a Dust Bunny Book. You’re going to want to, I know. But remember Stephen King’s book, Pet Semetary? Once something dies, what gets brought back isn’t the Book of your Heart. It’s something else – something twisted. Sinister. Evil.

    Oh my freaking lordy, lordy…aside from resurrecting the dead, I cannot imagine writing two books at once, no matter what stage, beginning, sagging middle (wheres the bra?), or end. Knowing me, I’d have the hero from Book A kissing the heroine in Book B and bald spots on my scalp from ripping out hair. I can hardle keep the facts straight (i.e., give the alcoholic a beer) in one book, let alone two.

    Rock on Laura!

    • LauraDrake says:

      Bra? Retired broads don’t need no stinking bras, Kerry! Oh, sorry for the visual.

      I’m glad I was able to keep at least one blonde off the basement stairs!
      Thanks, Kerry.

  7. Laura, I’ve never tried writing two books at once and I know I never will. My head would be spinning so fast, absolutely nothing would get written and then the panic would set in. And then I’d start to think “What am I doing? I’m a horrible writer. Who am I trying to kid? I should just quit.” I’d be insane and miserable.🙂 You are one brave woman.

    OTOH, I have two books that won’t leave me alone, books six and seven, my GH finalist books. I love these books. I love the stories and the characters. I hate the structure and the plot. Every time I tackle them, I get so frustrated and lost in the mess I’ve created, I have to set them aside…once again. After much whining to my oldest son, he presented me with the perfect solution. Toss it out and write it from scratch. There’s no old story or much loved words that simply MUST be in the book. There’s nothing on the page to drag me into despair. I’m doing this right now with my WIP, a draft I wrote in 2006, then had to set aside due to an insane work schedule. It’s become a different book than the one I originally drafted out — I’m a different person than I was in 2006 — so while I have the original story in my head, not having it on the page has freed me up to write a new and better story.

    Hang in there, Laura, we’re all cheering for you!

  8. LauraDrake says:

    Sheila, you’re SO much smarter than I am (where was your son when I needed him?) That’s what I should have done – deleted the old MS, and started new. Part of the problem was trying to be lazy, and pull old scenes that still worked, into the new. It wasn’t worth the problems I had, continually going back to the old text. Good luck on your WIP, Sheila!

  9. C. K. Crouch says:

    Laura I loved your blog. It is funny and insightful too. The first thing I wrote was a Lord of the Rings fan fiction. I’ve often said I could maybe do a historical with it. I have no idea how to turn it into a contemporary. I have sort of been learing how to write contemporary. The one story I won a contest with that an editor requested a partial for was rejected. I over edited the three chapers. I never finished it either. I’ve thought about reviving it but I have two things in progress now. The one I’ve rewritten several times, I think this is the third or fourth. I put it on hold in August. I wrote a thing for Camp NaNoWriMo in August that sort of ran away. I’m seeing if I can actually tie up all the loose ends and make a decent manuscript out of it. But today all at once I pulled up the site where I write and a different story popped out. I wrote about 90 words and closed it. Then when I came back later I blocked it out and continued with the other story. I figure I’ll see what happens with the one I’m on first.

  10. My dust bunny books are teed up for a rewrite.

    Would I do both at the same time? Only if I started drinking again had them at different stages in development (as you suggested).

    My first logically fits in a “Confidence Game” series with my current WIP. Once those two are done, I’m one con away from a trilogy. Woot!

    My second is in a completely different genre. It’s middle-grade light fantasy originally written and marketed to the YA market. I wouldn’t say it’s the book of my heart. But, Michelle “Mitch” Madison is one persistent, precocious eleven-year-old. I can’t let the characters go. She won’t let me.

    Both were written pre-Margie Lawson — in a state of Unconscious Ignorance. Isn’t it amazing how quickly words whip from brain to page during that state?

    Congrats on your success and the sale of that Dust Bunny, Laura.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Gloria, I salute your marching into the bowels of hel — I mean, your courage!
      If your characters are sound, and your plot is good, you should be fine!

      Margieize away! Check back, and let me know what you think of doing two at once.

  11. Kecia Adams says:

    Great advice, Laura! Love the Pet Sematary visual, and the high school boyfriend one.🙂 I recently pulled out a very dusty romantic suspense I’d been very proud of at the time (say…6 years ago). The bad news: it was really awful (WHAT was I thinking with that FBI hero?). The good news: wow, my writing has improved! Write on, lady!

    • LauraDrake says:

      As long as you shoved it back under the bed, when you were done, Kecia!
      Isn’t it so cool to look back and realize how far you’ve come? Bask in the Glory!

  12. Susan Spann says:

    Great post – and congratulations on the sale of the dust bunny! Every sale is awesome, even if it gives you pause.

    I thought about resurrecting a dust bunny book once – fortunately, I had a new idea almost at the same time and decided to “put off” the dust bunny (because I knew how much work it would need) until the new novel was finished. That new novel (a mystery, and as it turns out the first in a series) got me an agent and a multiple-book deal, so fortunately I was spared the Revenge of the Dust Bunny. Looking back, I think it was the best for all concerned!

  13. LauraDrake says:

    Great choice, Susan! From your posts, I had no doubt that you’re FAR more intelligent than I!

    Anyone who can write a mystery has my respect — I don’t even know what’s going to happen two chapters away, much less, the end!

  14. Barbara DeLong says:

    Oh, Laura! I’m so tempted ALL THE TIME to resurrect my “heart” book, the one I received my PRO pin for. I’ve looked at it from time to time over the years and thought of the many ways I could make it better, maybe saleable. But that would change it into something else again, something I won’t enjoy rewriting with a finished product that isn’t part of my soul. Sigh! Perhaps I’ll leave it alone once and for all. Maybe . . .

    • LauraDrake says:

      Don’t do it, Barb!!! Leave it under the bed. BUT. Take the spark of it – that piece that enticed you, and hasn’t let you go. Make it into a whole new book! Win-win – you get the book of your heart, and that thing living under the bed has something to read!

  15. texasdruids says:

    Laura, my dust bunny was originally titled Pipe Dreams. A western romance, it attracted two different agents but never sold. I wrote a sequel, should have written a new, unrelated book, but I was caught up in my secondary characters from the first book and just had to write their story. That one didn’t sell either. I put them away, wrote a memoir that I never shopped around, and let myself get sidetracked by family stuff. Eventually, I added a paranormal element to the first book, retitled it Darlin’ Druid and self-pubbed it — at Sharla’s urging. I also revamped the sequel, titled it Dashing Druid and put it up on Amazon. I’m now working on the third book in my Texas Druids trilogy, which I hope to publish in March of next year. I’ve also pubbed a prequel novella, White Witch, taken from the original book and expanded.

    Do I regret resurrecting my dust bunnies? No, but I do regret all the lost time when i could have been writing other books. My advice? Don’t get sucked into quicksand the way I did. Keep moving forward as Laura advises!

    • LauraDrake says:

      Wow, Linda, I’ll have to tell my husband – I found someone more tenacious than I!
      But from what I’ve heard, you book did really well. Sharla says it’s the best book she read that year! Good luck with your trilogy!

  16. Laurie Evans says:

    I’m still wrestling with my dust bunny book. *blushes* Still trying to decide if I should trash it and start over (like that idea), or just trash it. The characters will not. stop. talking. to me in my head! It’s probably because it’s my first book, but I just can’t let it go.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Oh Laurie, learn from my mistakes. Email the old version to a friend, and make her swear NOT to give it back, then delete it off your computer. THEN if it still calls to you, start over. Sounds dumb, but I’m going much faster, now that I’ve left the old version behind. Good luck!

  17. Erin says:

    Thank you so much for your advice! I’ve been wondering what to do with mine. I spent more time on it than anything I’ve ever worked on, changed it a million times, learned SO much while working on it…but it really kinda sucks. :S I like things I’ve worked on since SO much better, but I have wondered if it was all just a waste of time if I do nothing with it. Your experience helped me a lot, so thank you for sharing it!

  18. LauraDrake says:

    Never a waste, Erin. Like Jenny asks in her blog tomorrow, Why do we expect to sit and write a book correctly the first time, when it takes YEARS to learn piano, or to paint, or any other artistic endeavor! Good to see you here!

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  20. I don’t have a choice, It’s the first of a series. So my agent’s assistant and I have been editing it. The end result is (this from my agent) I like Phoebe a lot, but Lord Beaumont’s Bride is a stronger book. Well, yes it is. But Pheobe will probably see the light of day. An editor loves LBB and want to see the other two books. Fingers crossed.

  21. derekd says:

    In a current wip, I thought a scene from my one of my first two dusty bunnies would fit great. I’m wise enough to know these two should never see the light of day, as they are chock full of rookie mistakes. However, pulling a scene seems harmless enough, right? So I find the afore mentioned scene and read over it. The idea was good, but writing was so bad it was easier to do a complete rewrite than to pull some sort of frankenstein cut and paste job.

    I’m with you, Laura, let sleeping dust bunnies lie.

  22. Bonnie Leon says:

    Great article.

    I’m not revising a dust-bunny book, but revising one that was released years ago. It’s been interesting.

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