Moving on

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
stephmcgee
Posts: 210
Joined: August 16th, 2010, 12:44 pm
Contact:

Moving on

Post by stephmcgee » August 18th, 2010, 9:29 pm

No, not from here. (I just joined here. Too soon for that.)

Anyways.

The love of my writing life, the darling words of my creation, has been the novel that I started developing and writing when I was in high school. (I'm in my 20s so it's not been terribly long.) Through high school and much of college I didn't write consistently, if at all. I set it aside because it felt too derivative. But then I hit on an idea to get rid of the worst offenders. I set out to re-do the mythology, and bits of world-building. Then I began a fresh from scratch rewrite. At last, after 8 years, I wrote "The End."

And then I started trying to revise. And I realized how much work it would take to make the book saleable. I wasn't scared of the work. I mean, I'd written a novel in the intervening years. (Granted a not very good one.) I had a master's degree. I knew work and I could handle it.

What I was afraid of was losing my favorite characters. Despite a propensity for reading almost exclusively YA books, my voice and the stories and characters that become most real to me when I write is not YA. To make the book YA would mean losing all the characters that I adored most.

My heart was no longer in the story. I couldn't lose the spirit of my book. (At least as I saw it.)

So I put it away and focused on the next book. It was tough. But I did it. For a while, as I was writing my third novel, my mind would stray to that last book. I had to force myself to lock the thoughts away. And yet my mind would not let me accept the fact that the world might not ever get to know these characters I had lovingly toiled over for so many years.

Then a couple months ago, I got an idea that might be the saving grace for that second book. It was going to take a lot of work, but if it meant saving my darlings it was worth it. I put off enacting my plan until I finished the third manuscript.

Yesterday, I finished the outline of the written first draft. I'd worked on it for weeks and it was finally done. Each scene painstakingly delineated and laid out by setting, characters, and events.

95 pages in all.

I had it printed and bound, complete with a spiffy cover page on green cardstock. After picking it up from the printer's, I spent last night and today going through it, slashing through the unnecessary fluff, and color-coding the important bits from the cut scenes that might need to be incorporated elsewhere. (Or highlighting the bits that could be turned into their own plots or developed further in any way.)

And now, I'm not so sure that the work is worth it. I don't know that I'll come out with a better manuscript that will be any closer to a sellable point. I knew going into it that it might not work. But I was never fully prepared to deal with that reality. Part of that included never calling this project what it really was. I called it my "top secret project," never its title that people I knew had known it by. I never talked details. Just that I was outlining. I knew that if I'd been too open about it, it would just make the heartache more acute if the project never proved to be more than a last-ditch effort to save a floundering story.

How do you decide when it's time to move on? How do you tell when a manuscript just isn't worth it, no matter how in love with the characters or other elements you might be? How do you definitively shut that lock on the door to that world, that story?

Because I'm not seeing the light at the end of the long, long revision/rewrite tunnel.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by polymath » August 18th, 2010, 9:56 pm

The question I ask of a narrative is does it matter to a large group of others. If I think it will, I move forward. If I think it won't, I move on.

A narrative about the life of a miserly nematode is unlikely to appeal to a large audience. A narrative about the life of a whiner is unlikely to appeal to a large audience, but potentially a larger audience than a nematode's insuperable struggles to reorder its problem-complicated existence.

Narratives inspired by current events have a time sensitive appeal, but nonethess have potential appeal to large audiences. Portraying reader engaging past or future events means exploring them from a novel perspective.

At root dramatic magnitude and reader resonance, functions of reader rapport, drive what matters to readers. And one more crucial factor is how much of a hidden life, a secret life, an exotic life of people or personas and events and places a narrative depicts. Giving readers an intimate, satisfying secondary reality experience, fantastical or mundane, different from alpha reality routine experience is paramount.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
dios4vida
Posts: 1119
Joined: February 22nd, 2010, 4:08 pm
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by dios4vida » August 18th, 2010, 10:35 pm

stephmcgee wrote:How do you decide when it's time to move on? How do you tell when a manuscript just isn't worth it, no matter how in love with the characters or other elements you might be? How do you definitively shut that lock on the door to that world, that story?
I never say that anything is "definitively done." I have a novel - my first - trunked right now. I love it, I still believe in and love the characters and the world. It is most definitely in the "not saleable" category now, but I'm not saying that it's done forever. I tell my family that it's not dead, it's just hibernating, waiting for its season. Because one day, when I'm a better, smarter, wiser writer, I will look at it and know what to do. I'll finally be able to make the plot holes work, I'll be able to make those characters really 3D, and I can polish the prose until it shines. Its time is not now, but that doesn't mean it will never have a time.

This particular novel is sitting in a 3-ring binder on a small shelf on my desk. It's not out of sight, but it isn't dominating my vision, either. I have it sitting there to remind me that there are characters that I love and a world that deserves the best writing I can give it. And whenever I look at it, I tell myself that one day - whether I'm 30, 50, or 90 - I will do justice to that story. Every word I write, every story I craft makes me that much better equipped to write that novel the way it deserves to be written.

Here are my two cents: Don't lock the door. It might be time to shut it, but leave it unlocked. One day you might want to come home to it.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

EMC
Posts: 37
Joined: June 2nd, 2010, 10:33 am
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by EMC » August 19th, 2010, 9:34 am

Ooh, I was just going to post something similar. First novel, I retired, temporarily, before I got to the end, because it was turning into something I didn't want it to be. Second novel I'm mid way through and now have 'THE FEAR' that nothing has actually happened, I have no plot (especially after reading Nathan's post yesterday, it appears I have a premise and theme, but NO PLOT! ARGH).
What do I do? I don't want to keep dropping stuff mid way. The main key to getting published is being able to finish!! Do I just keep plodding through?!

No help to you I realise, barring that you may think it helpful to know you're not the only one!

EMC

GabbyP
Posts: 15
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 12:34 pm
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by GabbyP » August 19th, 2010, 2:22 pm

Here's a bit of advice I got in one of my writer groups a few years back when I was having a similar problem. Put the story in a drawer and don't touch it for 6 months. In the meantime, try something brand new, using the techniques you learned the first time around plus some of the newer stuff you've learned along the way in your life. Have some fun with it. In 6 months, go find that older story of yours and read it all in one sitting. You'll know in your heart if you should finish it, or if the plot and characters can be updated to suit another story idea you have.

Hope this helps!

User avatar
J. T. SHEA
Moderator
Posts: 492
Joined: May 20th, 2010, 1:55 pm
Location: IRELAND
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by J. T. SHEA » August 19th, 2010, 3:19 pm

"The question I ask of a narrative is does it matter to a large group of others.' Amen, Polymath!

But should I move on from my 500,000 word tale of a whining miserly nematode's insuperable struggles to reorder its problem-complicated existence? A worm's eye view of the universe? I could make it a VAMPIRE nematode.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by polymath » August 19th, 2010, 3:53 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:"The question I ask of a narrative is does it matter to a large group of others.' Amen, Polymath!

But should I move on from my 500,000 word tale of a whining miserly nematode's insuperable struggles to reorder its problem-complicated existence? A worm's eye view of the universe? I could make it a VAMPIRE nematode.
Aren't they called annelids, Hirudinea, leeches? I once critiqued a short story where vampires were reinvented as society's medical practitioners circa Nineteenth century. No, I'd say don't move on, focus on developing the 500,000 words into a tight, meaningful package concept.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
Holly
Posts: 500
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 9:42 pm
Location: Gettysburg, PA
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by Holly » August 19th, 2010, 4:20 pm

stephmcgee wrote:
The love of my writing life, the darling words of my creation...

What I was afraid of was losing my favorite characters...

I called it my "top secret project," never its title that people I knew had known it by...
This is your biggest problem. You're emotionally attached to this novel... or, to play Dr. Psychologist, you're attached to the great memories and feelings this novel stirs up in you. This was your first novel, you had a wonderful time creating it, and you can't let go. It's like a love affair when you can't forget the guy.

You had those wonderful experiences and nobody can take them away from you. But you need to learn to look at your work in a more businesslike way. Yes, it's great to fall in love with writing, but if you want to be a professional, you have to move on from those attitudes.

Forget how you feel for a moment. What about the story itself? Does it hold up to scrutiny? What's it about? Is it worth pursuing one more time? Look at Nathan's recent blog post about novels -- he covers all the basics.

Good luck.

stephmcgee
Posts: 210
Joined: August 16th, 2010, 12:44 pm
Contact:

Re: Moving on

Post by stephmcgee » August 19th, 2010, 11:33 pm

Thanks everyone. After trying for a second or third time, I can't really tell which at this point, to save this book, I've decided to officially end the suffering. I'm just not seeing a way out of the tunnel that is the mess of a manuscript. I read the plot I'd laid out for all of everything, start (even before the start) to finish. It seemed so strong. I have no idea what went wrong. But there isn't a way, that I can see, at least, to save this manuscript. These characters, their stories, the world I created, will all fade from memory, I hope. No other will ever get to know them the way I have.

It makes me sad, but I have 11 or 12 other ideas (including one already written) waiting in the wings. There are other characters to be found, other stories to discover, and surer journeys to embark upon.

Again, thank you all for your support. It means a lot more to me than you know at this time in my life. I think it's one reason I decided to jump into the waters here at Nathan's forums.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest