It is with a heavy heart that I recently had to shelve a story of mine for the time being until further notice. It’s possible that I won’t even ever get back to it. It’s a book that I worked on for over two years and spent two and a half drafts trying to get right. The story went through major plot changes as the process went along, to the point where by the time I was on the third draft, the story was barely recognizable from what it was in the first draft. Eventually, I reached a point where, even though I had a few solid ideas to drive the story, I still didn’t have a real, defining factor to outline the point of the story or enough real ‘plot’ to help the story have a tight, readable pace. In other words, there’s not enough there. In the end, there are plenty of other ideas for stories I have that have greater potential for being successful, and I also have my nonfiction book The Pancake King in the works, which also has greater potential.
One of the reasons why I was so consistent with this book as opposed to others I tried writing is because so much of it was inspired by a certain stretch of time in my own life. The main character and me had a lot in common, which helped keep the passion I had in the story alive for so long. It was the most for a book I’ve ever written and brainstormed for, which I tended to pat myself on the back for because of my persistence. I even requested help from a family friend who had a lot of experience in editing after finishing my second draft.
Having to shelve or completely discard a story, especially one that you spent so much time in, simply put, sucks. You thought you had something and you were desperate to make sure you got it right, but no matter how many times you try, you can’t get it just right. You can’t get it exactly the way it should be. Having to discard a story is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens, even to some of the best writers. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. It doesn’t even mean you don’t have a good story in you. Even some of the most mediocre of stories have at least a pinch of ingenuity (believe it or not, I thought the movie The Room could’ve been great as an actual story and not as one of the most beloved movies to be hated if, well, almost everything about it was changed).
If a story you’re trying to write isn’t working out, and you’ve spent so much time trying to get it right, maybe it’s a sign that you should take a break and try something different. If we spend too long struggling to “perfect” an idea we have, we miss out on all the other things we can accomplish. All of the better ideas wait on the back burner while we try and get an idea out there that’s only half-baked or not even fully realized. If it’s clear that something you’re working on isn’t working out, this doesn’t mean it never will. It’s possible that while you’re working on something else or even doing something as simple as taking a walk (preferably not now for the latter, it’s currently freezing out) that one amazing idea you needed will pop into your head, and you’ll have exactly what you need to go back to your original project and give it that touch to keep moving forward.
As for me, I will continue writing new material based on new ideas and continue to work on The Pancake King, with every intention to make the latter the best I can make it be. My hope is that it will be a start for my own life as a published author.
“I wrote a book. It sucked. I wrote nine more books. They sucked, too. Meanwhile, I read every single thing I could find on publishing and writing, went to conferences, joined professional organizations, hooked up with fellow writers in critique groups, and didn’t give up. Then I wrote one more book.” – Beth Revis