Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Had to Put the Ox Down

A week ago I reported about how the work-in-progress had come off the rails. Last night I made a decision I’ve never made with a novel-length project before: I set it aside. It’s the wrong story for this character at this time.

I’m not going to throw it away. Among the benefits of writing on a computer is the ability to save everything. There are a lot of good scenes in this draft, and I may want to revisit it some day to see if a way around its problems has appeared. There are several scenes that can be adapted into whatever I come up with to replace it. The time hasn’t been completely wasted.

This episode serves as a reminder of another of the benefits of self-publishing: no deadlines. I had an target date of getting it out by March of 2013. That’s not likely to happen with whatever replaces it, and that’s fine. I don’t have to lose sleep and re-arrange the rest of my life because a publisher has set a delivery date to suit his convenience. The next book will come out when it comes out.

I already have the germ of an idea. It’s been rattling around for several years now, the time never right to start work. (At least I knew the time wasn’t right for this idea.) Now the time may be damn near perfect for several reasons.

In case anyone is wondering, this is not a case of writer’s block. Even if I believed in writer’s block—which I emphatically do not—I’ve been cranking out good pages all along. The problem was not an inability to write; it was an inability to write myself out of the cul-de-sac I’d taken myself to. I’ll work on a short story for the organized crime collection as a way to cleanse my writing palate. The shorty is already mostly sketched in my head.

The abandoned project had a tough life. The plot keystone I needed to tie the two halves together never materialized. I took six weeks off early in the draft when the basement waterproofing and remodeling project demanded too much attention. I had to fight a little to find this character’s voice again after having set him aside for a few years. On balance, this was a good ox, with a lot of potential. He flat out wouldn’t go where I wanted him to go.

Stubborn bastard.


Mike Dennis said...

Your time has most emphatically not been wasted, Dana. I had the same experience 15 years ago. I sat down to write a novel, had a great idea, good characters, started writing. About 100 pages later, I knew I'd written myself into a corner from which there was no escape. I put it aside.

Fast forward to 2 years ago. I'm writing another, completely different novel. Once again, I get 100 pages in and find myself bereft of ideas. Where do I turn? What do I do?

Well, what I did was dredge up the 15-year-old novel and lift the basic idea from it. That idea was just what the recent novel needed to break through the roadblock. I grafted the two ideas together seamlessly and presto! THE GHOSTS OF HAVANA.

You had to write those pages because you had the idea, but it wasn't yet fully-formed. The pages, or maybe the idea behind them, or maybe a character, or something, will shout at you some time in the future, saying, "Use me now! Put me in here! Do it!"

As I titled one of my recent blog posts, goes to show, you never know.

Dana King said...

Thanks, Mike. If i can come up with something close to as good as GHOSTS OF HAVANA from this, I'll be delighted. I hope i can salvage much of it. There are a couple of characters I'd love to work with again, and a situation or two I'd love to develop. They're just not coming together now.