If I have learned anything during my writing adventures, it is the fact that I never know exactly where to find the next story. Coming up with ideas certainly isn’t a problem. I’m bombarded by them all the time and I take inspiration from some of the unlikeliest of places. The part I struggle with most is taking those ideas and figuring out which to keep and develop and which to tuck safely into the notebook for later. Sometimes the choices I make don’t lead me down the right path.
Probably this is why it takes me so long to get from “Once upon a time” to “Happily Ever After”. Just because I’ve written in excess of 50,000 words, this doesn’t mean that I’ve written a story that is worth reading. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to slap a title on it and push it out into the world hoping for the best. Maybe I should? I don’t know.
I’m struggling with this more now because I’ve already spent months on a single story and I have written it in its entirety more than once already, altering the characters and the actions in order to achieve a story that I like. And I don’t. I don’t like it at all. Okay, so this isn’t completely fair. There are parts of it that I really like – love even. There are little gems here and there that I wish I could share with the world separate from the work in whole because they make me smile or chuckle. I wish, wish, wish that I could pinpoint what isn’t working and figure out a way to fix it, gosh darn it. Why does it have to be so complicated?
Admittedly, I despaired quite a bit. I wondered if I was even cut out for this crazy writing thing? Maybe it would be easier to just quit and move on to something else. What? I don’t know. I milled around the house for a bit, bored and restless, and itching to sit back down and write because well, I’m not sure what else to do with myself if I can’t get words from my head out of my fingers. (This is a strange affliction that I have.) So, I rationalized it by convincing myself that the real problem was a lack of focus and if I just kept at it long enough, I’d work out the problems in the story and I’d get this thing finished and ready for the world. (It would be a relief just to get it out of the way so I could move on to something else.)
Guess what? That approach didn’t work either. Forcing myself to write something is about as effective as not writing at all and the more I tried to push, the more I started to hate what I was doing. Ugh. Not a good place to be. If I’m not enjoying the words I pour into my story then it’s going to show. I’m not clever enough to cover it up. I started to ask myself what would happen if I publish a lackluster story? Could I live with disappointing my readers? No, probably not. I don’t have the heart to publish something if I’m heart really isn’t in it.
It became rather clear that I needed space between myself and the manuscript or else something bad was going to happen. Something that would ultimately end with my computer smashed to pieces. (And that’s just the start.) I didn’t want to give up writing entirely so I tried to appease the irrational creative side of my brain by working on a novella while I let my unruly novel simmer in the corner. I picked up something I’d started a long time ago and started playing. (I have better results when I tell myself I’m only playing.)
Funny thing happened. I’d abandoned this novella because I didn’t really know where it was going. (Typical problem for me.) I loved the start, got a little cloudy in the middle, and then jumped ship when I didn’t know where else to go. That’s okay. I enjoyed re-reading the entertaining beginning and I was intrigued by my own characters and the world in which I’d placed them. I wasn’t sure I could unravel the middle but I gave it some thought….
And came up with an answer! One simple plot fix in my novella and I started writing in a frenzy. Madness. All of a sudden, the characters became people and their situations drew me in closer. I wanted to know more. I answered questions. I created. And lo and behold, I fell in love all over again. That little story that I had hoped to develop into a novella has taken greater depth and meaning than the novel I left to simmer. Go figure. I was focusing on the wrong story all along.
I’m not really sure how I feel about this. I’m excited because I see so many possibilities that didn’t exist a day or two ago. I’m happy because I’m writing again and feeling productive. But another part of me is sort of frustrated that I wasted so much time trying to force one story when my heart belonged to another. Not that I’m in a big hurry but still… I like to think that when I’m done writing a story, I’m going to feel proud of what I accomplished but what I’m discovering is that there are no guarantees when I start a story that I ever really want to finish it.
Then again… maybe when I finish this one, that unruly novel in the corner will be ready to place nice? One can only hope.