Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learning To Let Go

I've been working on a single project for over two years. It's a novel, and I love it. I love the hero and heroine, Tom and Emma. I love the rural setting. I love the fantasy and the magic. But, despite how I feel, I just can't seem to make the stupid book work. Tom and Emma and I have been through draft after draft after draft together. We've plotted. We've journaled. We've argued and struggled. We've taken short breaks while it made the beta reader and crit partner rounds or while I worked on other things. I've always come back to it. But with each rewrite, each change I made seemed to cause new problems, expose new flaws.

I know that, at this point, it's counterproductive for me to continue to work on it. There isn't anything in my apprentice writer's toolbox right now that I can use to fix it. So I have decided to put it away.

I have quite a few trunk novels, but all of them are partials - ideas that didn't work. Practice chapters. This is the first one I've ever finished, but had to give up on. It wasn't all wasted time, though. I learned a lot about writing. I've learned a lot about how I write and what works and doesn't work for me. I feel that I'm a better writer because of this book.

Even though I'm still mourning, I'm not going to include it in any of my goals for 2009. It's time to let go - to move on to other projects and use what it taught me to write something better.

Writers, how do you let go? Or do you ever? Is there a trunk novel out there that still compels you?


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Mel,
Interesting and poignant post. I feel for you. Sometimes the best thing is to let something 'rest' for a while and go back later. Your subconscious sometimes works on things, or your writing changes and develops in other ways so you can 'see' answers. Sometimes, too, writing a novel is so emotionally rewarding and also exhausting that you need to give that world a break for a while. I am certain you will return to it in time and will be able to 'fine-tune' it to your satisfaction.

I have four 'dusters', including two romantic thrillers that I feel lack 'punch'. When I have time, I intend to go back and look at the moderns again - I know I should be able to improve them.

Best of luck with your work! Happy writing for 2009!

Evonne Wareham said...


I so agree with Lindsay about letting it rest. My first AT entry was one of those - I had a pile of scenes that I loved but didn't know what to do with - then along came American Title wanting paranormal. My real book of the heart is a monster spanning twelve years - young lovers who meet again over a decade later - when the third person who read it pointed out all the things I mustn't do, and they were the same comments as one and two, I gave in and put it away - but I still grieve for it and I hope that one day Luke and Miranda will get their story told. As long as you remember - never throw anything away.

Anonymous said...

By no means throw it out, but by all means let it rest. Maybe you're just not quite ready to write this particular book the way it wants to be written. Your subconscious knows this, that's why it won't let the book work for you. Set it aside for as long as it takes -- could be weeks, months or years -- and go on to other things while Mr. Subconscious does the heavy lifting. When the answer comes you'll know, and then the book will work like a dream.

I've got my own problem child sitting in a folder right now, waiting for me to get back to it. It needs something, but I'm not quite sure what yet. Maybe we can't "make" them work -- maybe they work when they want to. When it knows what it needs, it'll tell me. I started a story recently that was coming out trite and flat. I set it aside. About a week later a new idea hit that made the plot interesting again. Maybe that's it, maybe there's one more plot twist or character bit that your book is holding out for.

Or you can always take the Raymond Chandler approach: if the plot starts sagging, have two guys burst through the door with guns. I don't normally recommend that for romances, though.


Savanna Kougar said...

Hey Mel, I feel for you. I have trunks full of stories in various stages...but mostly it was due to life circumstantces that I did't fully complete them.
What Lindsay, Evonne and Pat have said is 'right on'!!!
Let it rest, move on to other projects...a whole new world, perhaps.
And, if you want to send it to me, I'll give it a read through. I have a knack, sometimes, for finding the spark or what needs to spark.
Also, what Pat said about a book in its own time. I've had stories I've been delayed on, just to discover a new twist later, that is perfect for the story. Or just a new direction.

Trish Milburn said...

Mel, I think we all have those trunk novels. I have probably 15 or 16 of them. But here's the thing, you never a few years, you might be able to pull it out of the trunk and a light bulb will go off and you'll know how to salvage it.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Hi, Mel,
I know how you feel...I haven't really spent enough time on any of my manuscripts! I'd rather move on to a new one than fix the old ones...but that excitement sometimes lets me go back, and some I just can't fix by myself. If I can't fix it and no one has a good hint, I do put some aside and move on to the new excitement!
Can't wait to find time to write!