Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When the Ingredients Just Don't Mix


Have you ever been working on a story that has it all - great idea, cool characters, interesting storyline, exciting plot....yet when you put it all together, it just doesn't look the way you envisioned? There's just something missing that you can't quite put your finger on. Or maybe the story fizzles out long before it should. Looking at each element separately, you should come up with a total that equals success. But instead, it's coming up looking like...well, a mangled skinny cat that looks more alien than furball :D

What do you do?

I've been lucky enough not to have this happen yet, at least to a devastating degree. Though I have written stories that three chapters in I've either lost interest in the story or just don't know where to go from there. And let's face it, if the author is losing interest in the story, there's probably not much hope the reader will want to read it.

Most of the time, the sad little story I'm working on gets put in a "I'll deal with it later" file and never sees the light of day again. For example, I started a book, probably two years ago now, that I started out very excited about. It was a historical romance (my favorite genre to write at the time). I had found a very cool real life story about a 13th century woman that I was going to adapt into my romance.

It had action, adventure, romance, fight scenes, chases, a corrupt high powered priest, a good guy love interest with a dangerous and criminal past, heartbreaking scenes and gorgeous imagery (if I do say so myself *ahem*).

But three chapters into this literary masterpiece, I stumbled. I knew where I wanted my story to go, but wasn't exactly sure how to get there. I had points A and Z but all the points in between were a little blurry. I had all the elements I needed to create an awesome story, but for some reason when I tried to string them together, I got the mangy cat instead of the gorgeous fashion model.

So, instead of being a good little writer and working out the bugs that were mutating my fabulous project, I moved on to something else (which, incidently, had the same problems and also got shelved.) I think I did this three or four times before I finally found a story I was passionate enough about to work through the kinks and get it finished.

And that was my missing ingredient. Passion. Sure, I had all the basic elements, but if you don't have the glue that holds it all together, the passion to stick with a story no matter what nasty hairballs come your way, all the perfect elements in the world won't amount to anything.

Writing is hard. Writing an entire novel, from start to finish with all the edits in between, is a daunting, time-consuming, goliath task and if you don't have the passion it takes to complete it, you are going to end up with a file full of half-finished stories.

Now, I still plan on finishing those stories one day. Like I said, the right elements are all there. I have what I need to make those half-baked ideas something really special...I just need to find the passion to finish them :)

Have you had this happen? Do you file them away for another day or discard them completely? Do you ever go back? How many mangy kitties are hiding in your file box and did any ever make fashion model status? :)


Scott said...

Never happend. Nope. Nada. Never!

Of course it's happened and I have many, many files. I think you're right, sometimes the passions just not there.

Then again, I have one MS that I wrote, revised, filed away, revised again, filed away, and then finally, last year, revised one more time and I totally love the changes I made. This project will go through some more minor revisions and then I hope to query it sometime next year.

Right now, my current WiP, well, it just sort of came out of nowhere. I had a general idea, plus I had two other ideas around the same time, so I started working on all three. This one just took off, so perhaps there's more passion, or more a driving need to tell the story.

So, most times, I go back, because with a little bit of rework, a bit of twenty-twenty hindsight, those old projects often take on new life.


Amy Tate said...

Love the photo! Yes, that happens to me all the time. I usually end up using the "parts" in other manuscripts.

Eric said...

I completely understand and agree with this post. I'm there. Trust me.

I haven't given up on my WiP yet though, because I can feel the end only a chapter or two away. Sure there's some cleanup and improvement to be done, but this is only the first draft so that's okay. I dread the thought though that I'll have a virtual drawer filled with all my false starts.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, boy, do I know what you mean! Sometimes I get to M and have no idea how to get to N. Let alone Z.

Falen said...

Only once - but unfortunately i was 70K in.
I think i'll try and finish it up in a few months here, since i'm so close

JennyMac said...

Love the photo! So funny.

And I finished my manuscript. Its 100K words. I was a fool to think it wouldnt need multiple revisions. LOL. I need an editor since I clearly am incapable after a certain point of being subjective about my own work.

Anonymous said...

Yea . . . I started out full zeal ahead last November with the idea of writing a story about a pregnant teenager in the Lisa Samson style. Dead loss.

L.T. Elliot said...

I have lots of mangy cats in the drawer...and bad stories too. ;P

You know what I've found to help me a lot when I come to a point of abandonment? Conflict or the lack of it. Most of the time, it means jumping ahead in the story to where there is some sort of conflict. Too much down time means I lose the passion for it. It isn't 100% accurate but it does help solve a lot of my stalls.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I'm currently working on a story but I have SO SOOOO MUCH i want to put into it that I'm really in such a freeze state cuz some stuff just is not working then some just works fine but then its like I just put everything in a blender & it looks like mush. Im trying to step away from it for a bit & iron things out. Writing is definitely not as easy as it seems!

Jovanna said...

I'm working on about 10 stories at the same time and have just as many shelved away 'on hold'. Different story for different moods, see, but I mostly write because its soothing. Most are for my reading only; a few I hope to one day rewrite into a flat plain without any kinks in it anymore.

I've only ever finished 3 stories in the whole of my little more than 2 decades of life, but am only rewriting one at the moment - or trying to find some people to help me read and edit.

There are always so many story ideas and I want to turn all of them into stories, but only a few are really worth the effort. So sad.

Btw, the cat made my day. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I've had this happen a few times. (who am I kidding, more than a few!) Stories I get so excited about and character's I wouldn't mind having as best friends with plots so visual I could live them.

And then, all of a sudden, I just don't have the passion for it anymore. The character's don't have the same spice for me and the story doesn't seem as exciting as it once did and I just move on.

I have all of the old stories on a hard drive, and I might get back to them someday. I think at one time, I was just too busy trying to prove to myself that I could write something worth reading as opposed to writing something that really kept my interest until the very end.

Luckily, I crafted a plot around a voice that intrigued me to the end of the story this time around. It took me five books to get there. But it seems to happen with many of us, and you're right about the passion. If you don't have passion, just like in a relationship it seems, you might just have to let it go, or revisit later to see if something can be rekindled.

Jen Chandler said...

Oh my have I ever had that happen! My current WIP actually. I had an idea for it but abandoned it because I had no idea how to make it work. I finished the book but it just didn't sit well with me. After I was well into book two (yes book TWO) it came to me like an avalanche how to make the original idea work. I went back and put it in and BAM! The whole thing came together beautifully :)