Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hey, Writers Out There

Karen and Julie watching Kevin


Do this happen to you much? A story that started out well suddenly feels off and you can't figure out why. Why did I lose my interest in it? Is it a sign it stinks?

When this happens, how do you deal with it? Push on through or leave it alone for a while. Does it usually turn out okay in the end or is it a SIGN?

Years later can you tell the ones that hurt from the ones that felt good?

22 comments:

Fleur Bradley: said...

I have a few abandoned stories, usually because they started with a good idea but no real plot.

For short ones, I either finish them in one go, or don't.

David Cranmer said...

I have dozens of abandoned stories and I’m comfortable with that. I think time places everything in needed perspective. So many writers dash tales off and fling it out only to hear crickets chirping. So, I prefer sitting them aside and seeing how they age. Hopefully, I’m improving as a writer and I can bring a new element to it down the line.

Cullen Gallagher said...

This happened to a story I started last summer. I knew where I wanted it to go, really liked the beginning, then got stuck. I started over 4 or 5 times, but it never worked.

I left it alone for a year, came back last week, and picked up where I left off. I realized that the ending I thought I wanted wouldn't work, and that was stopping me from finishing. So, it ended up going in a completely different direction, but I'm much happier in the long run with it.

George said...

Mickey Spillane always wrote the last chapter of his books first. "That way I know how it's going to end," he said. The principle should hold for short stories, too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love running across a first page from years ago and wondering what I had planned for that.
Yes laying fallow often points up my mistakes in what the story was about.
Although I sometimes have an ending from the beginning, I usually have to write my way into a story and the end comes out of that struggle. At least in stories.

Todd Mason said...

Assuming you know the ending at the beginning, particularly of more complex stories, is sometimes limiting. Never be afraid to let something sit (if not as long as I do, as I remain a dabbler).

Yes, I can tell which ones came easily, and which ones I forced, and most of the latter are not even sent out, though one of the better ones of the second group has been published.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - That's definitely happened to me! In fact, that's why my WIP is taking so long to finish. When I first started it, it just went....nowhere. I didn't like it. Then, I put it aside for a bit, came back to it and made two fundamental changes. Now it's finally cookin' again. So I guess my answer to the "what do you do when this happens question" is put it aside and come back to it later. If it's still not good, then let it go. But you may just get another idea....

Charles Gramlich said...

I usually push on through. And usually I get a product that I can live with, if not glory in. Years later I can tell them apart, but it's an emotional thing that lingers in me. I don't know if I can see clear qualitative differences or not.

Dorte H said...

I think I abandon more stories now that I blog than before. I have realized how many excellent stories there are so why read on if it does not grab your attention?

Now and then I put a story down after a few pages because I am not in the moood for it, though. Some days I need light entertainment, and if the novel is too bleak or realistic, I pick something else and give it a chance later. That is what happened to my current read. Saturday it was all wrong for me, today I can appreciate the quality of the writing.

Rob Kitchin said...

I'm about 200 pages into a book where I've been having doubts. It's been sitting to one side for a while. I think I know what's wrong and I'm going to have a go at re-winding and re-building. I've not lost my interest in it, I just think it lost its way a little. Putting 200 pages to one side would be a minor disaster, but I've done it before.

Graham Powell said...

I almost always work out the whole story before I begin so I don't get stuck plot-wise, but sometimes I run into problems with individual scenes that hold me up. Usually this is because I can't find the right words to strike the note I want.

I usuall keep picking at it until I get something I like, though.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's usually the ending that doesn't feel right. Or sometimes, the POV. Yes, I think that's what's wrong with the one I am thinking of. Thanks for helping me work through it.

Dana King said...

If it's a short story, I set it aside. If a good idea comes to me in a week-month-year, I can come back to it. Even if it's just a character or scene you liked and can re-purpose.

This is why I outline novels. I can't imagine getting 150 pages into a novel and deciding it isn't working, and I don't really care to fix it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yeah, a novel is a whole 'nother country.

Richard Prosch said...

Many of my short stories are patchwork pieces --bits jotted down on napkins, dialog from a notebook, setting from a journal entry five years old. Something of a Frankenstein approach, I guess. If it's not going well, I push on through by digging out a different arm or leg.

Ron Scheer said...

Great topic. I always have an end in mind and a few key "moments" that I want to hit before I get there. Having a plan keeps me going. I recently put a story online with such a conclusive ending that when another writer said, "I'd like to see you do more with that character," I just said, there's no way.

Then bingo. After maybe a week, I was in the kitchen this morning, probably waiting for the toast, and it came to me. "Oh, yeah. That's where it can go."

So that's the way it works for me. I have to sleep at least one night, maybe a few more, but the connection forward percolates up and presents itself. Kind of like a cat bringing you a bird it just caught.

Travis Erwin said...

I've abandoned a dozen short stories and two novels. the novels haunt me and one day I will finish them. The short stories not s much.

Barbara Martin said...

This hasn't happened to me yet. Sometimes I get bogged down in an area I'm working on. That's when I go to a different place in the outline I've prepared and write about that section.

Erik Donald France said...

It can always be recycled, cannibalized, resurrected or reanimated later, or become a palimpsest, a haunt, a haint --
depends how vital it later feels, doesn't it? Somehow some way something'll come of it.

Eric Beetner said...

I always take it as a sign and set it aside, but never delete. And do not fear the abandoned story. There are always more stories to tell.

Kieran Shea said...

Push. Leave alone. Sleep. Push. Run it by someone w/ no qualms about calling you on bullshit. Nothing sadder than a story unfinished. Well, one mitten lost in the snow maybe.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Think I found the way to pull it together. Maybe.
A kid's shoe always looks sad, too.