You have a story that you love, one that’s been around – either on paper or in your head – for a long time. You’ve pulled it out several times, but each time the plot and character puzzle pieces never really fit together. So you put it away and work on other projects until one day more of the puzzle falls into place. Out it comes once more, you think you’ve got it. Things are finally working and the whole things is outlined and ready to go, but when you sit down and start typing out the fourteenth rough draft the puzzle falls apart.
This is where I am (and have been) with my first novel, Heart of Hope, that I wrote back in 2005. I worked on editing it on and off for a couple of years before finally putting it aside for I-didn’t-know-how-long. It sat in my folders for a few years gathering virtual dust until the plot began to reshape itself in my mind. Everything got a much needed over haul and the story finally began to grow up to a more un-cliched work of fiction. I was excited to be working on it again. Even though it had been a headache before, I still loved it and wanted to make it work. I thought it was finally there, but as I began to construct the new rough draft it just stopped. I fell once more into a gaping plot hole. Once I finally crawled out of it I tumbled right into another even larger one.
I had lost count of how many times this had happened, of how many times I had excitedly pulled it out thinking it would finally work to watch it all fall apart over and over again. When do I just call it quits?
Let it Go and Give it Up?
This story is nearly nine years old, it’s just a first novel, maybe it’s time to just let it go and give it up…but…I don’t want to. I’ve been going over and over the debate of forgetting about it and moving on or just letting it sit for a while again or working on it anyway. I know from experience that forcing it will only make things worse, but is it time to say goodbye?
I think we all have a soft spot in our writer’s hearts for our very first completed book. It was our first baby, our first great accomplishment in our journey to becoming writers. We love it, we hate it, we want to throw it away, but we stick with it. We feel this way about most if not all of our stories/novels. So what do we do when one just doesn’t work even though we’ve sweat blood and spend countless hours perfecting it?
Let Yourself Move On.
I’ve come to the conclusion with this book that it’s time to just move on. It’s not like I don’t have an army of other stories waiting to be written. But part of me doesn’t want to move on because I think by “giving up” that I am failing in some why as a writer. But that mind set is wrong. When a story doesn’t work you haven’t failed, it’s just not working and we need to accept the fact that no matter how much we love it, it may never work.
For now Heart of Hope will be the story I may dabble with here and there when I need a break from something else, but I won’t beat myself up if it never fully works or ends up as a paper back in Barns and Nobles. I’m still learning and I am far from perfect. We don’t have to “give up” on a story that we love, but there comes a time when we may need to let it go and move on. Don’t feel like a failure when that happens, even though you don’t have a workable draft you’ve gained that much more experience you can apply to another project.
Writing is hard and ideas don’t always pan out and that’s okay. As writers we just need to keep trucking ahead one story at a time until something does work and we get to write those two satisfying words – The End.
Have you had any stories that just wouldn’t work no matter what you did? Let me know in the comments.
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