Sometimes You Just Have to Let it DIE!

In My Writing on February 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Of course, I’m talking about my first novel. You may remember a few months ago I dusted off Novel 1 in an effort to re-edit and make it publishable.

Oh my days…

As it turns out, it’s not very good. That’s the cold, hard truth I’m afraid. I’ve given it several drafts in an effort to crush that piece of coal into a spectacularly shiny diamond. But as the saying goes: you can’t polish a turd.

It might sound like a harsh thing to say about my very own piece of work that I’ve worked on for such a long time (two years and a bit), but I feel that I must be honest with myself if I’m going to grow as a writer.

I found myself staring at the words at a complete loss as to how to make them better.Β This then made me reluctant to work on it at all. I came up with all kinds of excuses to avoid writing. The result being that I haven’t written properly in a couple of months now. It also made me lose my confidence. How can something I’ve worked on for so long still need so much work? I started questioning whether or not I would ever write anything good. I also kept thinking about Novel 2 and how much I really wanted to work on that.

The truth is that I’ve learned so much from this project and I’ll be able to apply that knowledge to Novel 2. I think that it’s time that I let this one go.

Pull the plug. Do not resuscitate.

Maybe one day I’ll drag it once more into the light of day, but for now I think that it’s best left alone. It was a difficult decision. We’ve been through a lot together, me and Novel 1. We’ve hashed it out during my commute, had lunches together, spent lots of time in coffee shops, late nights, weekends… We even took several holidays together. I don’t put this down lightly. In fact, it was kind of like breaking up with that boyfriend who is super nice and you don’t want to hurt his feelings but you have to do it because he just isn’t THE ONE.

It’s important to know when enough is enough.

I feel much better having made this decision. I’ve once again picked up Novel 2 which is in its early stages and guess what… I’ve actually been writing!! I’ve also reread what I’ve written so far and am pleased with it. It almost sounds like a real novel. Obviously, it will need a lot of work and polishing as it’s in its infancy, but I feel good about it. My confidence has been restored. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve attacked this novel from a different angle based on the mistakes I made whilst writing Novel 1.

No more excuses. No more dithering. Novel 1 is out; Novel 2 is full steam ahead.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

  1. I have a feeling my first is also going to go this way, which I think is the reason I’ve been putting off finishing draft one. Good luck with number 2.

    • Novel 1 went through 6 drafts, though. Don’t give up until you’ve given it the once over a few times. You never know what you’ll come up with during the editing process.

      Thank you! Number 2 is coming along nicely. Now go and finish your Draft 1!!! πŸ™‚

  2. I think it’s a good idea to think of Novel 1 as a ‘practice’ novel. You learned the craft and finished an entire book, even if you’ll never look at it again! Go you! Lots of people never get past the daydreaming stage, or end up saying ‘yeah I’m writing a novel’ forever while really staring in despair at a manuscript they can’t figure out how to salvage.

    Me, I started on my first book, uhhhhh….approximately twenty years ago? At least the basics of it. I was a teenager. The story has gone through too many drafts to count, and has changed almost completely — only a few characters remaining in something like their original form. I think because I started so early and was so laser focused on it, I was incapable of letting it go, and eventually learned (through all my drafts and my classes and my outside reading) how to fix what was broken in it. Despite that, the first book still contains vestiges of the Old Badness; it was only when putting together the second book, and then going further into the undiscovered country of the third, that I started to feel good about my work again.

    It’s a learning process no matter when you start. I’m proud of you, that you realized you needed to jump to a new ship instead of keep bailing out a sinking one. Sometimes you can get that sinking ship to shore, but just as often you’ll go down with it.

    • Wow, 20 years. That’s quite impressive. It’s evident from the attention to detail in your writing that you’ve spent a lot of time carefully crafting it, but I had no idea that you spent that much time working on it. That’s pretty awesome.

      Thank you for your kind words! I’m much more excited about writing now that I feel free to move on.

      • I’d say it’s less carefully-crafting-it, and more repeatedly-taking-a-machete-to-it. I’m not happy that it took that long. It was a frustrating process and I often considered throwing it out, but it was what I wanted to write. I think my ultimate point is that you have to decide whether the current work is worthy of that much time, or if it’s better to move on to a less tortuous project.

      • That is exactly true! I’m glad you didn’t throw out your novel, though. It’s a good read. πŸ™‚

  3. Are you making your decisions on your sole reviews, or have you gotten feedback for others? I think we can be overly critical with our own work so just for a “sanity check” you should elicit feedback to see what the consensus is, which should be very enlightening in any case.

    • I will admit to being very self-critical, however in this case I think that my feelings are pretty justified. I had my husband read it over and offer constructive criticism (he’s really good at that as he sometimes does it in his professional life) and he had quite a lot of things to say about it. Although, I feel that I must say that he never told me to abandon it or anything like that. But there was a loooooong list of suggestions he made.

      The problem with this project is that as I would read over it, I could tell that something was lacking, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It just didn’t seem to have much soul. And this was after 6 drafts.

      My husband’s comments were extremely useful and it made me realise that I was still trying to find my ‘voice’ in this one and that it would have to undergo some pretty significant changes, not just to the story but to the style. I found it frustrating to the point where I wouldn’t write. Then I reread the first chapter of Novel 2 and it’s much better. I feel that it will be a better story and that it will be better written.

      I’ve also shared my first chapter of Novel 2 with other people for feedback. For some reason, I kept putting off sharing Novel 1 with people and I think that it’s because I know that it isn’t very good.

  4. This is an interesting lesson to learn from your post: letting go of something even though it’s so tough because so much time and love had been spent on it. But you have learned a lot from your time with it so that’s great. I’m glad to read that you have moved on to Number 2 and that it’s going well, and that it brought back your confidence.

    • Thanks, Halim! I think that it’s a very important lesson to learn because it was hard to let it go. I feel good about Novel 2,though, and am super excited about it. It’s good to be writing again.

  5. Sometimes pulling the plug is the hardest thing to do, and then there’s that overwhelming sense of relief afterwards.

    I think we learn a lot, even if our writing attempts might not result in a publication it’s definitely not a waste of time. The way you have forced yourself to continue editing and revising, despite gradually losing faith in the draft has been a valuable experience as well.

    Good luck with Novel 2. I’m sure it will benefit from the lessons learned while writing and editing number 1.

    • Thank you! I definitely learned a lot. It’s also a matter of perspective. The danger is in thinking that I’ve wasted a lot of time (and in fact that was my first thought) but I learned some really valuable things not only about how to write but about finding my own style. Thank you so much for commenting!

  6. That makes two of us, Buffy!! I deleted my nanowrimo novel because I was 50k words in & had no ending in sight. I agree – it’s best to move onto the next story sometimes!

  7. I’ve finished one novel, and I’ve also had one I let die. I think it was going along well, but I abandoned it for a while, and by the time I came back to it, I wasn’t that person anymore. I didn’t have the same things to say or that voice, and it just wasn’t a story inside of me anymore. And that’s ok. I’d rather dedicate my time to the next idea that speaks more to who I am as an author than to one that wasn’t quite the right fit. πŸ™‚

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons is not working for me. I’m a different person too. Thanks for giving me a different way to think about it!

  8. […] Storytime with Buffy says Sometimes You Just Have to Let it DIE! […]

  9. […] the demise of Novel 1, I’ve been putting all of my efforts toward Novel 2. Here’s a little bit of background […]

  10. Ha- been there , got the T shirt saying

    “My 1st story sux”

    But why worry eh- all good learning eh.

    • Definitely! And novel 2 is going along swimmingly. Much better since I’ve had so much practice with the first one.

      • Ive used characters from other stories in my first attempt at a novel. Forgotten characters from other stories, with just a little bit of a character base. It helps me work on a story line and not have to deal with too much at once. Next time i hope to try without the training wheels on.

      • That’s a great idea. I kind of do something similar but just in my head. I’m a huge fan of supporting characters. The danger for me is writing an entire novel with supporting characters in it.

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