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Trunking the Novel

I’ve been ‘revising’ my novel for an embarrassingly long time. In reality, I was ignoring it.

Oh, I’d think about it. Ponder what changes I needed to make, but I rarely to never sat down with it and really worked on it. I even bought a book on revisions and worked through the steps. I was a little excited back then, that I would really do this thing and make a decent book out of it. But I still didn’t like it. And I stopped work.

I told myself I didn’t have the time to work on it. That’s somewhat true, my time is tough to come by on many days, but the longer things dragged on the more I knew I was fooling myself. I could do something if I wanted to. I could make at least a little time. I was choosing not to.

A few days ago I remembered some writing advice I once heard, I’m sorry I don’t remember where exactly. It said that when you’re stuck or ‘blocked’ on a piece it’s usually because of a story problem. Something is wrong in the story that needs to be fixed to let you move forward again. So I shifted my thinking. Instead of trying to make the story I already had there work better, I wondered, what exactly didn’t I like about it. What wasn’t working in the story for me.

It didn’t take long to figure out from that small change in the way I looked at it. The problem is pretty substantial. I’m not sure I can fix it with revisions. Maybe I could start over from scratch and keep the elements I liked and take out the problems, but I would have a fundamentally different story than the one I have now. And that’s the problem. The thing I don’t like about it can’t really be removed.

When I was planning the book, I thought about what other characters I could add that would bring extra conflict for my main characters. I maybe made them too big a conflict. They took over the plot. Because I planned them there from the beginning, I didn’t see that they were derailing things so badly. They were just supposed to add a little extra tension and a subplot, but because their only purpose was to be in the way of the main characters, they were much to good at it. Too much of the story was dealing with them, and even the climax scene was a showdown with these annoying people and the actual thing I wanted the story to be about was a afterthought by the end.

Maybe someday I’ll know how to fix this and come back to it. More likely, I’ll take the pieces I loved about this book and work them into something new. While I’m in mourning of all the time I put into this story that I will never share, I’m trying to also remind myself that this is how I learn. This will make later books better. Right?

Now that I’ve mentally and emotionally processed this decision, I’m ready to start moving on. A fun idea for a short story came to me this afternoon, and I’m ready to start something new at long last.

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