Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not always a success...

So I realized that with all the Sparkfest love, I’ve probably been giving the impression that everything I do just turns to gold.

Yeah. Not so much.

The road to where I am is littered with abandoned and forgotten projects. I’ve written a lot. Not a lot compared to people like Liz (and don’t compare yourself to others, it’s never really helpful) but a lot for a dyslexic freak who keeps putting aside writing because “it’s just a pipe dream and I’ll never get published so I should stick to the science thing” (that’s the little devil on the shoulder who tells me to do things like finish my degree and get a day job; I hate that little devil). Just considering novels, I’ve started 14 (that’s only counting the novels for which there is more than five chapters before I tossed it aside, if we count just first pages, it’s more like 40).

I’ve finished six novels, and of those six, two of them will absolutely never see the light of day (I’d burn them, but I’m pretty sure my mother has a copy of them somewhere). Four of them were in the last two years.

Some projects seem to write themselves and others are written in blood from paper cuts on your fingers. Why? The short answer is that I don’t really know. But I do know why projects never make it to “The End.”

My lost projects can boil down to four things:

Plot holes (worse when you drive over them)
Lost that Loving feeling
The dreaded: Not actually a good idea

For me, distraction from writing always comes from something related to writing. Blogging, research, revising a different manuscript, obsessively checking the email to see if an agent has responded yet, A shiny new idea makes its way into my life, obsessively checking email again. You get the drift, anything is easier than writing. Projects that get lost here are completely recoverable, if you can fish them out in time.

Plot holes. Even when I don’t use outlines (which I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t) I cannot write unless I know where I’m going. I’m absolutely paralyzed by the whole “I don’t know what comes next” thing. It’s really pretty silly because I spend so much of my life just making it up as I go along, but I’ve written enough to know that I do not have license to meander at random. See, I have this cliché chum bucket that I keep around for those evil plot sharks. When I don’t have a plan, I reach right into the bucket and throw out some cliché chum in the hopes it’ll distract my plot sharks long enough for me to swim away.

It never works.

So I have to know where I’m going before I get in the water. I’m a good swimmer, but sometimes, I’m a dumb writer (and that’s totally okay, that’s what revisions and editing are for!).

Lost that Loving Feeling. How many times have we gotten into a piece of work that was just wonderful, falling in love all over again, blinding spinning phrases, and twisting plots? And then we realize that our characters are snotty little brats and we’re starting to route for the bad guys. That’s when I call it quits. If I come to a place where I like the bad guy more than my protag, it’s time to chuck it or revise. Someday, when I’m awesome, I’ve thought about writing a story where we start with the protag and villain in well defined rolls and then change their sympathies at midpoint, and end the book with the protag as the villain and the villain as the protag. I’m not that awesome yet, and that idea brings me nicely to:

The dreaded: It’s not actually a good idea. I admit that, in general, I tend to hang onto my not very good ideas for a long time. Way longer than I should. I’ll strut out my werewolf vampire war for ages before I come to grips with the fact that I’m just retreading. And yeah, the Star Trek Pegasus story, umm, that might not have been a "good" idea. I call this one the dreaded because it always crops up during any draft. Whether it’s true or not, I always spend some time waffling about whether or not the premise for my novel is any good.

And that’s where I am right now with my drafting project, lost somewhere on chapter two and hoping to get my groove in gear. I’ve been distracted, found major plot holes, lost that loving feeling, and I’m worried that it’s not a very good idea. I’m pretty sure that’s normal—well, normal for me at least.So yeah, even though I have all these awesome inspiration stories, I have plenty of doubt and “this is never going to work,” too.

There’s a saying in science that we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us (they quote this in Jurassic Park, too). I like to think that manuscripts stand on the shoulders of every word written prior to that manuscript, even the dead lost projects littering the roads to now. That means that even the dead projects helped.

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