Thursday, November 16, 2006

Throwing in the Towel

Random shout-out of the day: Whoohoo! Supersized Office episode tonight! Is it sad that this might be the highlight of my week? Reviewers who have seen the epi say it's the best of the season. I'm SO there. You?

Question of the day: I've been slaving over my manuscript for several years now, and after a few revisions and some critiques from a writing group, I'm stuck. I *think* it can get better, but I don't know if it really can. I guess what I'm asking is, have you ever given up on a manuscript and if so, how did you know to abandon it?

What a timely question for me because I've recently more or less conceded that my current WIP is a washout. As in, I've written 40k words but I think that's as far as I'm going. Here are my reasons why:

1) The actual writing process felt like an absolute chore. Look, I was really spoiled when I wrote TDLF: it was so effortless that words flew from my brain to my fingers without hesitation, and I wrapped the entire ms in just a few months. I don't really expect to repeat that process. BUT, I'd almost come to dread my daily work on the WIP - I'd set a goal for myself of 1000 words a day, and while I was meeting that goal, I was also constantly checking my word count to see how many more I had to squeeze out. That's not what I consider fun.

2) I put down the first half of the ms and have had NO desire to pick it back up. I'm someone who needs to be inspired in order to pull out her best work. Clearly, I'm lacking inspiration.

3) I haven't once thought about the characters or their problems since I've put it down. When I was drafting TDLF, I was constantly mulling over my heroine and her entanglements. I mean, seriously, they would wake me up at night. With my WIP, not only have I not thought about my heroine, when I do, I'm not even sure where I should take her for her next step...which is a big problem. If you don't know where your characters need to go or where you want them to end up, you can take them down a very rambling path that can lead to nowhere. From the get-go, I knew where and how TDLF was going to end, even though I couldn't predict all of the stops along the way.

4) I know that I can do better. This is probably the most important reason for setting the WIP aside. When I reread it, it's actually very good, and my agent agrees. But, as I said above, I don't think that it's inspired: it's a well-written, smart 1/2 book, but it's not on the same level as TDLF (in my and her opinion), simply in terms of passion and enthusiasm, which definitely shine through in the writing. So...maybe one day I'll muster up a brilliant idea for the second half, and idea that will push me through and create a truly compelling read, but for now, I'm not willing to settle for a decent book when I know that I'm capable of a fabulous one.

So, I can't speak to whether or not you should set your WIP aside, but those are my reasons for doing so. If you're stuck and don't know where else to go with it, yes, I'd try something new. It's not as if you can't return to this one or you're abandoning it forever. You might even find that working on a new project allows you to figure out where you were going wrong with this one...

Anyone else ever abandoned a WIP? Why'd you do so?


Trish Ryan said...

Congrats on a brave choice. Tough, but sooo much better than having something out there with your name on it that you're not excited about.

It strikes me that your reasons for abandoning a WIP could easily be rewritten and applied to breaking up with Mr. Okay-but-not-quite-right. Life just doesn't work when we settle :)

Here's to a new crop of characters and a storyline you love!

Anonymous said...


I'm utterly impressed with your integrity as well. Instead of pushing out a product, you chose instead to create something inspired.

It's incredibly reassuring to hear this. Best of luck with your next book.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Thanks, guys. Very kind of you. I'm not sure if it's integrity or just the fact that I have high expectations of myself, really.

It's funny - I thought I could and would be a one-book-a-year author, but clearly that process doesn't work for me. I'm impressed with those who manage that pace.

Julie said...

I agree with the others above, and I'm impressed with your honesty with us on this blog and with yourself. I know I've read some mediocre books by authors who can do better. It's no fun for me, and it can't be good for their future sales. I'm not a novelist (though I attempted one for my creative thesis in college), but that was really good advice for writers.

Larramie said...

Not to generalize here, but one-book-a-year authors tend to fall into formula writing. Those of us who have been on this blog from the beginning know that's not who you would ever become, Allison. Besides, inspiration will hit when you least expect it.

Enjoy The Office! ;o)

Unknown said...

Tivo is set and I'm SO THERE with The Office. Twenty minutes in, I'll start watching (and zoom through the ads). CAN'T WAIT! Really.

And please tell me you are working on another MS right? I mean the other one died but you are starting another one... RIGHT?