Blog 2023

Calling It Quits

One of the worst things about writing fiction is when you realize you need to just abandon a project.  Whether you need to tear the steel out of it and start from scratch, or just give up on it all together, it’s a heartbreaking experience.

Writing is a lot of work.  Oh sure, maybe it’s not like digging a ditch or pulling a double on the sales floor, but there’s an exhaustion and effort to it that is truly under-respected and pretending otherwise is often how writers get (yet another) inferiority complex.  But even in writing, the sunken cost fallacy is a common thing and sometimes, you got to just let it go.

I’m that way with Rhest for the Wicked 5 right now.  The book is in the editing stages and going through it, I’m realizing how much of it just flat-out doesn’t work.  There are tonal issues and world-building inconsistencies and the whole thing is just a mess.  And you know when writers will say stuff like that, they’ll often finish with ‘the core idea is good, though, so I think…’.  Yeah, the core idea ain’t good.  That’s what is truly killing it for me and the decider.  The basic, rote plot just ain’t all that.

Doesn’t matter that I’ve written this manuscript thrice now.

Doesn’t matter that there’s some really, really great stuff in here.

It’s got to go.  All of it.

Start over, from scratch.

Oh sure, some of those scenes could be saved.  But once you start trying to save a scene, you start trying to save whole scenes.  But those scenes don’t work without these other scenes over here.  And this whole story arc was pretty good.  And before you know it, you’re no longer starting over but trying to heavily rework the manuscript and that just ain’t going to happen.  Call it.  Rip the bandage off in one go.

Now, I will save the aborted manuscript.  After I re-write the book and have a truly new version, I’ll go back through the original and cannibalize it.  I’ll save those scenes and even story arcs that were oh-so-good.  But I’ll only do that AFTER this specific project is done.  That helps limit the damage of trying to shoe-horn the new story around them.

But yeah.  It’s heartbreaking to spend weeks, months, even years, working on a project, just to finally force yourself to confront the reality that this just ain’t working.

It’s hard and it’s heartbreaking, but you got to do it.  Kill it and start over, fresh.  Or move on to a totally different project.  Come back this to, but only if you’ve got a truly novel way to save it or to gut it for parts.  Anything else is a recipe for disaster.

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