It’s April, and that means it’s time for Camp NaNoWriMo, where you can write novels, short stories, screenplays, and just about anything creative with words. That also means this post is going to be brief (or somewhat brief, you know how I get), because I’m working on a short story for this month.
Funny — it’s a short story I had scrapped about three months ago, thinking it wasn’t going to go anywhere. The beginning was kind of slow, and I was beginning to wonder just where in the heck I was going with the damn thing. Sure, I had plotted it out and had an outline, and planned on where I wanted the characters to be, but something about it was just…fizzling.
I just couldn’t seem to get it to work.
I was crestfallen about this particular story, because I really wanted it to work. But no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get that story flowing. So, I gave up.
Now, I’ve scrapped a book or two when it hasn’t worked, and that’s okay. Just as long as it’s not happening with every single venture you start. That’s part of the writing process — knowing when to let go and put the story away like the proverbial lame duck. Time to find a successor and work on that, instead.
But this one was just something I couldn’t let go. The main character was too vivid to me. But, I put her away, too.
Then I just forgot about it and moved onto my other project — an editing of one of my current books. I typically (split my infinitives) go through a few revisions before I have anyone else look at my work in order to get it to where I’m at least partially satisfied with it, and then have someone else take a look. A couple of beta readers, in fact. They copy edit me and make sure the story keeps continuity. Then, I revise it once more and make them go through it with a machete and tell me what parts need to stay, what needs to be elaborated upon, and what needs to be cut.
So, while doing my edits of this novel, and my normal work as a freelance writer and editor, I’d forgotten all about my horror adventure short story.
Until one night my main character decided to tell me her story in a different way as I was drifting off to sleep.
No, I don’t get up and spring to my laptop or a notebook by the bed, because I follow the Stephen King rule of writing. If the idea is good, it’ll still be there later on when you’re sitting down to write. I’ve wound up scrapping too many works BECAUSE of the “holy gods I have to write that down RIGHT NOW” method, and it’s only ever left me with a bunch of ideas that never pan out. A few of my friends can vouch for this.
I let my character tell me her story in a new way as I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I went to work. I did my normal freelance work, and then turned to my personal writing.
I trotted out the writing project and fished out the short story, and lo and behold, the idea was still there. So I reworked the beginning.
It’s not finished yet — still about 8,000 words away from completion. But I know that when it’s finished, it’ll be a good story. Certainly not the epic tales of Martin, Tolkien, Rowling, King, or Lovecraft, but it’ll be a fun story that I loved writing. Hopefully you’ll even love reading it.
For me, that’s the point of writing and storytelling — to have fun doing what I love most, and to be honest, if that’s not why you’re writing, then you’re going to be miserable. Why be a suffering artist when you can just enjoy the hell out of it, instead? (Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration of both sides, but we can work on that later.)
Okay, so this wasn’t a brief post at all. The point is, essentially, that if you have a work that’s fizzling out, go ahead and leave it alone. Ignore it. Feed your other projects that are working. Eventually, you might come across a way to revive your dead or dying work and give it new life and purpose.