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An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 3:07 pm
by AveryMarsh
I've always been incredibly impatient and a perfectionist, which is not a good combination. For the past five months I've been working on a novel that I've had in my head for a few years. I wrote an incredibly sloppy version for NaNo--the first fiction I've wrote in over a decade--but I was determined to make that pile of crap sparkle like a diamond, no matter how many rewrites and edits it took. So I slaved away week after eye watering, screen blinding, finger clacking, head scratching, computer crashing, hand cramping, migraine inducing week. But as much as I love the darn thing, it just never melded together the way I wanted it to.

Last week, I finally pushed it aside. I don't think I can completely give up on it yet, but I've moved on. I honestly thought it would be harder, like there would be a grieving process or something. Maybe a tiny little funeral where I would print out all fifteen different versions, stuff them into a cardboard box and shove them into the back of the closet where they belong.

Instead, I sat down and effortlessly plotted out the next novel using all the tips I'd picked up from the one that I may never finish. I'm so high on how easily this new project is going that I'm not even itching to pick at the "failure". Yeah, I know. It's only been a week. But that's an eternity for a girl that has the attention span of a parakeet on meth. (Which is how I know I love writing. I've never stuck with something for so many months with nothing to show for it and still been this happy.)

I'll get there eventually. I know it could takes years to finish a project. Why waste time on something that's not working? That I don't yet have the talent to salvage? I guess that's why I don't feel as bad as I usually do when I have an unfinished project. I've heard people compare it to "killing" something they love, but it's more like someone took away my dried, crumbly playdoh and replaced it with real modelling clay.

Writing has changed me, and I haven't even finished a book yet. So thank you, novel, for sucking bad enough for me to have no other choice than to move onto something else but not enough for me to give up writing completely.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 4:50 pm
by Louise Curtis
I've thrown away a book or two myself, and it's sad but ultimately such a relief to admit the truth and move on. (Five stages of grieving, anyone?) All that writing has value too - especially the long grind of editing. It's school.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 5:19 pm
by Sommer Leigh
I have also thrown away stories that were just not fully realized ideas. Admitting that to myself is always so hard. But I always later appreciate them for what they were.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 6:56 pm
by sierramcconnell
It's like that old saying, 'the master appears when the student is ready'?

A story will only tell itself when the writer is capable. That story isn't ready for you now. It might not be your story to tell. It might not be this lifetime or it could be waiting for that right clicking moment to be revisited.

I have so many stories sitting in the wings, waiting to be told. I don't get sad about them because I know 'one day' I'll revisit them. I had one I didn't work on for years and I started talking about it and suddenly, I realized just how I could get it to end perfectly.

Because I had changed and grown not only as a writer, but as a person, and the characters had evolved along with me. That story was ready. And when I'm ready, it'll be there for me to write it.

That's why you're not too upset. You know it's still apart of you, waiting and sleeping, and understanding that when the time is right, it'll come to full fruit.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 7:32 pm
by Quill
Don't throw out anything, or even give up on it. At the very least keep the material for salvage. A story junkyard can be very useful down the line.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 8:05 pm
by oldhousejunkie
I completely agree with Quill.

Never totally junk story. I've learned this recently, in fact. My first "real" novel is a spiraling, out-of-control mess, and is not a reflection of my current writing talents. But the idea of throwing it away is pretty awful, so I've decided to keep the characters and some of the plot points, but for the most part, it's going to be a complete re-write. Once you are happy with your skills as a writer, it is completely worth re-visiting an old "friend."

Oh, and I can completely sympathize with you. I'm an impatient perfectionist as well. :-)

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: February 25th, 2011, 10:06 pm
by GeeGee55
Interesting. I heard the great American short story writer, Richard Bausch, tell an interviewer that he had given up on three different projects, locked them away in a vault, and each time it was like an earthquake. He had spent three years on a novel, only to realize it didn't work. An earthquake. each his own.

There is a difference between talent and skill and it's important in the learning stages to know that. You have talent, you were born with it or it was given to you, and you work hard to develop the skills to display that talent. Or, you give up because the struggle is too much to bear. Yes, keep everything, then look back and realize, that's where I was and I'm better now and maybe, I have the tools to tell the story the way it ought to have been told in the first place, or maybe it's fine to just look back on it.

Re: An Unexpected Feeling

Posted: March 1st, 2011, 9:27 pm
by AveryMarsh
Thanks everyone for the wonderful advice. You're right. I don't think I can give it up completely. It's the story that inspired me to start writing, the first NaNo book I've ever done, and there is a lot that can be salvaged, gaping plot holes aside. But I'm at least banning myself from working on it for a long, long time. (Years, maybe?)

I'm using what I learned on the first to work on the second, so I figure I can use the experience of the hopefully finishing the second to come back and do the first the justice I think it deserves. At least, that's what I'm telling myself to cope with the decision. Did I mention that I love it so much? ;)