Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Abandon Ship!

So, as I mentioned last week, I'm trying to pin down the plot of book #3, and as I also mentioned, I thought I'd revisit the book that I wrote in between The Department and Time of My Life, a book that was actually a spin-off of the book I wrote before The Department, the very book that didn't sell.

Phew. Still with me? Good.

So I took a spin through that manuscript, thinking I'd still be interested in the characters and the themes that the book touched upon...and guess what? I wasn't. Well, maybe not entirely, but not enough to devote the next three months of my life living and breathing these characters and their lives. (Three months is about how long it takes me to write my first draft.) So, sadly, I'm putting these two incarnations to bed. For good. (Well, that's not entirely true: there are tiny snippets of these characters that I'm carrying over to book #3, but mostly, 98% of the book is being abandoned.)

It's a tough question that I know many of us have wrestled with - when to hang on to a book for dear life and when to jump ship, and I don't know if I have all the answers. I can only say that for me, the writing process has to be both inspired and seamless. I have to sit down at my computer and spit out scene after scene; I have to be so infatuated with these characters and their lives and their nuance that they literally wake me up at night. I've learned that sludging through a manuscript just for the sake of sludging through means that I'll end up with a weaker end product...and so, when I reread these scenes that I now felt so disconnected to, I knew that I just couldn't - in every sense of that word - let these characters back into my life. I didn't want to. And so, that's that. These manuscripts will stay tucked in my hard drive, reminders of who I was a few years ago when the themes of these books compelled me to write about them, but that's all they'll be for now. And I feel okay with that.

Once I released myself from rehashing those old characters, I woke up with a fresh (and exciting to me) idea. Seriously, I just woke up a few mornings ago and thought, "Well, AHA! This is the idea." And now, I'm working out the details in my head and hope to start writing in the next few weeks. Not looking back at the abandoned ms because I know that this one is truly the one that is much more reflective of who I am now and the writer I've become.

So readers, how do you decide to abandon a ms? Have you ever returned to one to perform CPR on it, in hopes of reviving it?


Trish Ryan said...

If I look back at a scene or an essay and can't remember writing it, it's usually a keeper. But if after seventeen edits I'm still wrestling with what my point is and how many adverbs I need to make it, that usually means it's time to jump ship.

That, or when my agent says, "Um...I'm just not sure I get this..."


Carleen Brice said...

My novel #2 was actually novel #1 that I put aside. After I had an agent for #2, I went back and reread #1. Still liked the premise, but had learned a whole lot about storytelling, so everything got tossed and I started over. Novel #2 pubbed this year and novel #1 pubs next year.

Sarah Y said...

oh yes. I've been slogging through my novel for a long time now. I'm bored with my characters and bored with the lack of plot. I just haven't wanted to let go of all the work I've done.

I think it's time to move on.