Fear in Writing: Do you have a Gate in your Drawer?

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do you have a Gate in your Drawer?

We just removed the baby gates from the top and bottom of our stairs.  It was a big deal to the kids.  For my son, there had been a gate on one part of the stairs for his entire four years of life.  For my daughter, there had been a gate on both ends of the stairs for her entire memory--the past year, basically.  But now they are gone.

When my son first saw the screws lying on the stairs, and the gate leaning against the wall, he tried to lift the heavy, metal frame and screw it back in place.  It was quite comical and a doomed task from the start.  He thought it just needed fixing and his dad just needed a little help.  We told him no, the gates were coming down permanently.  It was time.

The next morning both kids stood at the top of the stairs in astonishment.  The gates were really gone!

"Where's the gate?" my two-year-old asked.

"Daddy took it to work.  He needs it there," my son said with authority.  Sure, that made sense.

These symbols of security had been removed from their lives, and the transition wasn't easy.  It was harder than changing my son from a crib to a double bed, getting rid of the pacifier, losing the afternoon nap.  They continue--five days into the mysterious gate disapperance--to ask, "Where's the gate, Mommy?"

And so I realize, our first manuscript is a little like this gate.  It becomes our security, always there to fall back on.  Like my son, we try to fix it, even though it is large and unweildy.  We go at it from every angle, refusing to give up on its viability.

Eventually, we must admit we don't need that old MS anymore.  We have grown beyond it.  We have created better work since it and will create better work because of it.  Maybe you shouldn't chuck it like my husband and I did with the baby gates, but perhaps there is a deeper hole than your reachable desk drawer.  That is usable space, after all.

Do you have a security MS?

Tomorrow, author T.H.E. Hill will be here with his book, Voices Under Berlin. And today's the last day to vote in the poll! Let your voice be heard...


  1. That is such an awesome post. Not just the first manuscript that we have grown beyond, there are so many things we cling onto long after we have outgrown them.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    ~ Rayna

  2. I truly hope you didn't chuck the baby gates but reused them in some fashion. Or donate them to charity...or even put them in the garage for puppy training later...

    Like an old baby gate, an old manuscript can be recycled or reused in different ways, if you care to look.

    My safety ms. sat in my drawer for however how long before I realized I needed one of the characters from it to put in my newer WIP. It was a win-win all the way around and worked out that I got to re-use/recycle, and still had one of my best characters in a new work.

  3. I'll always have a soft spot for my first ms.

  4. 春冰薄,人情更薄;登天難,求人更難。..................................................

  5. I remember writing my first book, but I can't remember what it was about now. My first middle grade manuscript is something very special to me, I could tell almost every line from memory.

  6. Great post Michele! I have a whole manuscript graveyard of WIPs that don't deserve to be seen, but got me to the point I'm at now!

    Am tweeting this one....

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  7. i was told a story whereby my sister fell down the stairs and was slumped into the gate at the bottom. I always thought to myself - why on earth did my mum and dad have only one gate up - kinda defeats the point. On a side note, my sister survived - just a few bruises so mum mum says.


  8. Well, since I've only written two full MSs, they are probably both still gates for me. Only time will tell.

    Love the analogy though. :)

  9. i think each of my manuscripts is are security manuscript and probably will keep beeing so until i actually get something published. Or so i tell myself.

  10. I just wish I had a manuscript! Good or bad! Maybe this summer?

  11. This is SUCH an important topic. AND the biggest hurdle for many new authors to reach. I've been trying to find a way to share this information with come of my critique group friends... and so glad to have your analogy. Would you mind if I link back to your post for group? Thanks! and well said!

  12. No, but I do have a hole in my pocket - LOL!

  13. I absolutely love this analogy - so original!! :-)

  14. I have a junkyard where I put chapters and such I wrote but never used. Sometimes I visit the junkyard and pull a part or two, clean them up, and insert where necessary.

    Stephen Tremp

  15. Interesting analogy! It's like the first page of a journal for me. The first page is so defining, and sometimes embarrassing upon later glance that I've started skipping the first page of my new journals just to ease up on my inner critic. If only our first drafts and manuscripts could be so conveniently and brilliantly blank. But that "first" is kind of the point, or we wouldn't be writers. We need a "first" so we can move onto others.

  16. Yeah, I have some old poetry that I fall back on as my 'good old stuff,' but I know I've moved on. I totally understand the metaphor here.

  17. It would be weird to read my original manuscript of CassaStar. I wrote it YEARS ago!

  18. Yup - I've got a gate.. oops ms hiding in a drawer. I learned a lot from it, but it's so overwritten it makes me shudder :) Thankfully I wrote it only for me because I wanted to try it out!

  19. Oh, yes -- I have two security manuscripts. I know I can fix them, someday, if I try. But first, I have the two newer novels to revise and submit...and two more ideas in the works. I'll never throw those first two away.

  20. Forget Koontz and forget his book “What the Night Knows” (a ghost vengeance story, been there, done that), instead read a book that’s been BANNED like “America Deceived II” by E.A. Blayre III.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]: