Yesterday, I laid to rest my current writing project.
It was, in its way, simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I’ve done and, for me, was not unlike having to put down a beloved pet. You know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do, but you balk at taking that final step. Unlike a pet, of course, it’s possible that in time I might resurrect the story with a fresh idea on how to approach it, but it’s not likely. Dead is dead.
It’s frustrating, because I know there’s a story in there somewhere, but damned if I can find it. I like the characters individually, but together they just don’t work. Dialogue is flat, action is molasses-slow. There’s no spark, only plod-plod-plod. I reached a point where I couldn’t put two words together and feel confident about them. I began to question my ability as a writer and that, more than anything, told me it was time to raise the white flag. Better I spend my time working on a project that has me excited to come to the computer in the morning rather than dreading it. Better to write a story that leaves me pleased with the work, rather than frustrated.
It’s not as if I’m the first writer to lay aside a project. I’m in good company, if one is to believe the ‘Forwards’ in many books. Stephen King has written more than once about the need to put a project aside or consign an entire manuscript to the dead file (what I believe he calls a “trunk novel”). Oh, but it’s hard! Writing, if done right, takes a helluva lot of work and energy. You sweat blood. And to realize, in the end, that all that time was wasted . . .
But was it? I prefer to think not. Oh, sure, I’d love to reclaim that lost time and put it to better use, but I need to look back over that period and focus on what I learned about the craft of writing as well as myself as the writer.
The big lesson for me this time around was that no matter how strongly I believe in a story, I can’t FORCE it to appear. I can cajole, I can even sometimes exert a little pressure, but if the story isn’t there . . . well, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. Perhaps it will be there for someone else down the line.
And that’s okay. We each have our tales to tell. This one wasn’t mine.
So rest in peace Kirian and Cai, Rosamund and Gunnar, Talarin and Quinlan and Hashatan. We gave it our best shot. Thanks for the ride. Thanks for the lesson. Maybe, in the end, that’s why I created you in the first place.