Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Past the Giving Up Point

Well, I've passed that point in the writing process where I usually give up. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. By this time--that is, towards the end of the first draft if not before--is where I look myself in the mirror and ask the eternal question:

Can I see myself spending the next couple of years with these characters?

The answer, more often than not, is no. If "no" is my gut reaction, then I scrap the whole project. I know what you're saying: So you spent the whole last year writing this novel, and now you're just tossing it? What a waste of time!!

Au contraire. Any amount of writing you do is good experience. It keeps your brain limber and the fire of creativity stoked in your heart.

What it comes down to is this: I believe that if you become bored of your characters and/or story, it translates to the page. And the last thing you want to do is bore your audience. Now, if you're near the end of a first draft that's several hundred pages long, you should not make this decision lightly. If you've written that much material, chances are you cared about your story for a long time before something went haywire, and it's probably worth your time to reverse engineer the thing to see where it went off track.

But if you dig to the heart of your manuscript and still find a rotted pit where the heart's supposed to be, then you're probably wasting your time trying to extract it from the jaws of death.

What's the longest thing you've written but decided to scrap? Mine was 612 pages long. Beat that!

Oh, and by the way: Happy New Year!


  1. Totally agree. I've written and tossed countless attempts at novels I felt just were missing something. One I ripped apart and rewrote 3 times. The fourth attempt is this spring. It got a whole new outline and I feel I've grown as writer since my last attempt about four years ago. I've heard about more than one successful author mentioned trunking up to 5 completed manuscripts that they would never publish. Another said a writer isn't experienced enough to publish till he's written more than 500,000 words. I have to agree. For practice I go back to my scrap heap and edit it. I figure it will help me grow, when I look back and see what I'm doing wrong.

    Congrats on reaching a new milestone! Good luck on the next one.

  2. Thanks man! I appreciate the comment. Yeah, I remember reading this great book by the film director Robert Rodriguez called “Rebel Without a Crew” about the making of his famous movie “El Mariachi” where he’d been told by his film professors that he needed to write three screenplays before he could even think about filming one. So he decided to write them and just make them and figured, “What the hell? I can always sell them in the Mexican video market if they suck.”

    But El Mariachi didn’t suck–not at all. It’s an awesome movie. Sometimes I feel like writers take too many steps back and look at their whole future career in one go, and think, “Man, I’ll never be able to write all of that!” But if you write a little every day, you end up with so much material!!! It’s all about persistence.

    So when is your book coming out? I finally got a kindle and need to check out your stuff…

  3. And but, about a quarter are able to discover time to go the gym and sweat it out to their heart

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