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I’m feeling stuck- conflicted about
what I should write what’s best for me to write.
A few days ago I did a post on starting a new story, and committing to finishing it. I need that so much! I am a serial starter. New story ideas come to me easily, I get excited, do a bit of planning, start the story, and give up after a few chapters. Or i finish first draft and never edit it. Or I get as far as editing a partial enough to submit, get a rejection, and again the story languishes, because I’m off with the next exciting new story.
If I took the same approach to my love life, I’d have gone through about forty-something boyfriends in the last ten years, instead of being happily looking forward to our tenth wedding anniversary in Paris next April!
I’m running through my list of unfinished stories since I started writing fiction again in January 2008.
I haven’t properly completed a single story. Ever.
By “completed” I mean not just first drafted but edited and rewritten and made as good as I possibly could.
I thought I had with one, the novella I wrote last December, but I was wrong. All I really did was tidy up and gently tweak the first draft, when it needed some serious cutting and rewriting in parts. I saw that straight away when I re-read it a few months later. So much that was wrong with it became obvious. It’s a wonder I got such a kind rejection! “Let a story sit as long as you can before re-reading it” is my favourite advice for self-editing. I was totally blind to all that needed editing when I’d only just finished first drafting it, on a deadline and needing to submit fast.
That one hasn’t been finished yet. I saw I could take it two ways, rewrite as a longer story and go broader and deeper, or cut it in half for an even shorter novella. I started the longer rewrite, but stopped after two chapters, enticed away by a new story idea.
My story files are a clutter. I’ve got four other first drafts through to “The End”. One of those, I’ve edited the partial for submission, got a nice rejection, and started a complete rewrite. I’ve got another three or four stories around a third to half-way first drafted. There are more that are just two or three chapters that were abandoned. I’ve got a lot of first chapters, written for contests or just because I had a new story idea, that I didn’t take any further. Then there’s the big folder full of story ideas I haven’t started yet, just jotted a page or two on, but I don’t make myself feel any guilt about that.
It’s all the unfinished stories that I’m guilty about.
I publicly committed to completing the next story I start. I have to get in the habit of finishing what I start, if I want my writing to ever be more than a hobby. So I’m developing the story now. The problem is, it’s going to be huge. far bigger, both in word count and complexity, than anything I’ve ever written before. My guess is this story will take around a year just to first draft. Probably as much again to edit. It does scare me. It scares me silly.
But in a comment on that previous post Mike perceptively suggested I may be using the big story as a way of hiding from another fear.
If you fear rejection, then embarking on a brand new, multi-year writing project might not be the best thing to pursue at this time. A shorter, more quickly completed story will force you to tackle that submission fear of yours sooner rather than later.
Then you can send out the short work while writing the longer one.
Initially, my reaction was “No, course not” but now I’m wondering if maybe he is right. Am I using the big story as a way to avoid more rejection?
It’s interesting that when I looked at the editing last thing I subbed, the rejected novella, I chose to go for the longer rewritten version and not the shorter easier fix. Part of that was because I wanted to enter it into a first chapter contest, and the longer story is a better fit for the publisher’s submission guidelines. (In the end, I missed that deadline anyway.) Now I’m also considering if I didn’t want to do the shorter version out of fear of needing to sub again so soon.
I can see how the 22k novella could be a different, much stronger story as the 10k version. Doing that wouldn’t stop me still rewriting it as the longer 50k version if I wanted to, because so much needed changing for that it would be a complete rewrite anyway. I’m thinking, while I slowly develop the very big 100 k story idea, which will need a lot of prewriting planning, maybe I should do the 10k rewrite of the rejected novella.
It was so clear on re-reading that the story could have ended around 10k. That’s when the emotional issues
actually resolved. The other 10k was a sex scene and a lot around resolving the external block.
Yes, I had it totally back to front!
In romance, the characters really do have to resolve the external issues BEFORE the internal emotional ones. That’s because the main story question is always ”How do these two very different people overcome all the blocks in the way of them committing to a truly loving relationship?” not “How do they solve the external problem?”
I do want to write this story. I think it could be good.
Now I’m feeling torn. I know I’m scared to start the big story. I’m afraid it’s way beyond my ability to write. I want to do it anyway. I don’t want to run away from this. I also have this contradictory desire to be writing shorter stuff and subbing. But I don’t want to use editing the novella as an excuse, a cop-out, an escape from taking on the big scary project.
I’m going to have a go at doing both. I’ll do the development work on the fantasy story, in parallel to editing the novella.
Wish me luck!
And tell me, how do you juggle working on two different writing projects at once?