Monday, February 08, 2010

Guest - Mary Montague Sikes

Good Morning everyone! Today's guest will be talking about very common problems we authors have. And she has some interesting thoughts so grab your coffee and a roll, sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, Ms Sikes is offering a copy of her book Hearts Across Forever so read on to the end to find out how you can become eligible to win.

What About Old Manuscripts?

What to do with old manuscripts? Authors are often told to learn from them but never look back.

I’m not sure I agree with that philosophy.

A few years ago, I remember attending a meeting where Nora Roberts was a featured speaker. She spoke about her first manuscript and said it was hidden away in a drawer somewhere. Although she indicated then it would never go out for publication, I wonder now if it did somehow resurface as a polished manuscript. After all, we on our writer’s journey learn so much along the way. We even learn how to fix things that at one time appeared unfixable.

(The event where Nora spoke that day actually became the first meeting of the Virginia Romance Writers. We passed around a notepad and gathered names and contact information for people there who wanted to form a romance writers’ chapter. What an exciting beginning of one of RWA’s most active chapters!)

The increasing popularity of e-books has widened the marketing possibilities for all authors. My advice to new writers is to finish the book, then go back and edit. Don’t spend too much time going back over the work as you write. That will delay completion of the first draft. Having a finished manuscript in hand is an awesome feeling of accomplishment.

If you have a drawer full of old manuscripts or a computer filled with book files, you should take another look. You may have an unpublished gem waiting for the educated editor you have become.

Among the treasures I’ve found in my computer files are the ideas for books relating to the hotels featured in my coffee table book, HOTELS TO REMEMBER, published in 2002. A few years after publication of that book, I created a series of proposal ideas for stories about not only some of the old hotels but also about places visited as side trips. One of those side trips was to Rose Hall Great House already featured in my first novel, HEARTS ACROSS FOREVER.

One of the story ideas I discovered in my files was about a couple who met at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond at the turn of the Twentieth Century. That idea and the Jefferson became a central feature of my gothic romance, DANGEROUS HEARTS, scheduled for publication later this year by Red Rose Publishing. This story is part of the “Shadowed Hearts” book series, each written by a member of the Gothic Romance Chapter of RWA.

So, what should you do with an old manuscript?

Don’t throw it away. Take some time and revisit it. If nothing else, you may have a great story idea for a new book.

©2010 Mary Montague Sikes

Mary Montague Sikes

is an award-winning author, freelance writer, photographer, artist, and teacher who loves to travel, especially to exotic tropical locations. The settings for her books and articles include Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, the Bahamas, and St. Martin. Her most recent research trips carried her to Los Cabos on the western coast of Mexico, to Yellowstone National Park, and to Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. Inspired by the Ansel Adams-type scenery, she took hundreds of photographs during those trips.

The Fredericksburg, Virginia native has presented workshops on promotion and marketing, painting, and writing to state and national conventions as well as to many local writers’ and artists’ groups. Her paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Her work is represented by Prince George Art and Frame in Williamsburg. She maintains a studio and a gallery at Petersburg Regional Art Center.

Night Watch

Several years ago, my husband and I took an unforgettable trip to Trinidad. Before we left, I envisioned being part of a Bogart and Bacall movie where I might take on the glamorous fa├žade of an old movie star by traveling in a white suit. So I tried it! That suit turned out to be inappropriate attire for the trip we made by small motorboat over a churning sea to reach Gasparee, the offshore island where our resort hotel was located. A network of dark caves with stalactites and stalagmites, located on that island, created lots of “what ifs” for me, especially when I learned of the island’s colonial history and found out the caves were once frequented by pirates who stashed their treasures there. Crossing the gulf and passing ocean-going vessels along the way made me wonder, what if Lily Henri, my heroine in Night Watch, journeyed by small boat over these waters late at night with her life in danger? What if she looked like a woman murdered in the waters of the English Channel and mistaken identity put her in danger? What if she were caught up in a gunrunning mystery and later kidnapped? That mystery and intrigue on the island of Trinidad are all part of Night Watch, due out soon. Look for it on Amazon or on my Web site,

Secrets by the Sea

When Dana Sinclair’s grandfather falls in love with the Caribbean island of Antigua and moves there to live, his family disowns him. But over the years, Dana keeps up with him through her letters. Then, her grandfather is murdered, and Dana is his only heir. She moves into Edgewater Manor, the centuries-old home overlooking the sea that her grandfather cherished. Haunted by secrets hidden in the old house and by the enigmatic but intriguing Clifton Wilder, Dana seeks to unravel the mysteries of her grandfather’s tragic life and death. Secrets by the Sea is available now from Amazon both as a paperback and as a Kindle book.

Hearts Across Forever

In 1980, during my first of more than a dozen trips to Jamaica, I became enchanted with the glorious lighting and fantastic foliage of the island. My first novel, Hearts Across Forever, is set in Jamaica where I ran with the wild goats that amazed me by climbing trees. My husband and I had an unforgettable adventure riding retired polo ponies through a heavy rainstorm along the coast where the movie Papillon with Steve McQueen was made. Although my clothes were ruined, I’ll always have memories of the magical shores in a rainy mist. When I visited Rose Hall Great House, Hearts Across Forever and the heroine, Kathryn Calder, were born. In my imagination, I could “see” dancers on the portico and feel the wicked presence of the “white witch.” This reincarnation story takes the reader back to days in old Jamaica when evil reigned on an old plantation. Hearts Across Forever is available from Amazon both as a paperback and as a Kindle book.

-- Lynda Again

To enter the drawing for Ms Sikes' book, 1) leave a comment AND 2) send her an email at She'll choose the winner by noon Friday.

Today's member word is LOUCHE /LOOSH/ adj. dubious; of questionable intent or morality.

Members of my newsgroup will know what to do with today's word. You can know too by joining us. But don't worry, there isn't any chatter. You'll only get notices from me (once or twice a week) so it won't fill your mailbox. My fluffy cat, Wookie Baby, will help me select the lucky person whose name is drawn and I'll announce it here on Friday. (She'd do it herself but her English vocabulary is limited to NO-when she's going to the vet and WOE-when she's getting a bath, lol) This weeks prize is a copy of Terry Spear's Legend of the White Wolf. It's a great book and I'll be posting a review on it tomorrow so make sure you enter!

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Jacqueline Seewald said...

Mary and Lynda,

Good morning and thanks for posting these interesting comments.
I couldn't agree more about saving our old manuscripts and returning to them at a later time. First and foremost, we are writers, but at some later point, we need to be editors. Self-edits are extremely important. They can turn what was once an unmarketable book into something quite desirable. So I agree; don't throw out or delete older work. You never know!

Jacqueline Seewald

susan said...

What a nice article and glad to meet you here. I am a reader but I often wonder what authors do with unfinished works. I was quite interested and also was excited to hear about your books as you are new to me. thanks for finding time to give us such a good article. susan L.

Pauline B Jones said...

Great advice this Monday morning! I ran across a box of old stuff and it was fun diving into it and stirred my creative juices.

Even if you don't use the whole story, sometimes a character can be transplanted into a new plot.

Monti said...

Jacqueline, you are so right about self-editing. As writers, we must become editors at some point.

Thanks, Susan. I love to find new readers.

Finding a box of forgotten materials is like finding a treasure, Pauline! I feel that way, too, when I discover a forgotten drawing or painting hidden away in my studio drawers.


Diana Cosby said...

Hi Monti,
I enjoyed the interview, and I'm always interested in advice of others about old manuscripts. I agree, digging out old stories can hold some forgotten gems.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Night Watch. I wish you continued success! *Hugs*

Diana Cosby
Romance Edged With Danger

Pauline B Jones said...

forgot to congratulate you on your release! Blame it on Monday and the SAINTS winning the super bowl! LOL! I wasn't allowed to watch (because I'm a sports jinx), but I saw the last 17 seconds. It was a long time coming! Woot!

Okay, better now. Probably. LOL! But a new release is OUR super bowl, isn't it?
Pauline Baird Jones

SiNn said...

wow i never knew being a reader more then a writer i never thought about things like that deff be keeping that in mind since one book I love could of been somethin someoe wentback to and fixed so ic ould love it awesome post

Anonymous said...

Mary Montague is a great speaker and gives ideas that most writers never consider or even think of. She gave me a terrific idea of resurrectring an old manuscript or picking up old ideas and how important editing is. Thanks a bunch. JD

Denise said...

Hi Monti & Lynda! I enjoyed Monti's comments. I have a manuscript (or two) that I pushed to the back because they were early works but could not abandon. I think I'll take your advice Monti and see if there's something that can be done with them now that I've grown and learned for folks like you! Thanks for the suggestion and permission to revisit those early attempts.

Monti said...

Thanks for the comments! I'm happy to have encouraged some of you to revisit earlier work.

Thanks, Lynda, for the opportunity to participate in your blog. It has a great look!

Today we have more snow in Virginia, so I have the day off from school!

WS Gager said...

Great ideas Monti! I have my first manuscript that was a romance. It was that work that pushed me to give up on romance writing and go write a mystery which is what I love. A Case of Infatuation was the first mystery I wrote and came out this past June. Thanks for advice. I would like to revisit it someday but the Mitch Malone Mysteris series is keeping me busy right now.
W.S. Gager

Lynda K. Scott said...

COngrats to Susan L. who won the giveaway from Monti. She'll be popping it in the mail asap. Happy reading!

Lynda K. Scott said...

And congrats to Patsy H. who won the member's giveaway of Legend of the White Wolf. I'll put it in the mail asap. Happy reading to you!