By our Will
One of the most frustrating things about writing is facing the fact the project you believe in, the project you’re over the moon about, the one you just know is going to blow the socks off everyone who reads it…. just…. isn’t….working….
Short version: Many years ago, I wrote a spec script for THE X FILES. It was a piece I was particularly proud of, but could not get in the front door. Or the back door. Or any door. A few years later, it was heavily revised and submitted to THE DEAD ZONE, with slightly better results. Ultimately rejected, the feedback and comments were invaluable, and it remains the nicest most constructive rejection I’ve ever received.
A couple of months back I heard of a new anthology looking for mysteries with a Christmas theme. Kicking around some ideas with friends over coffee, the brain flash came, this could easily be adapted into a novella set on Christmas Eve. The starters gun went off in my brain, and we were off to the races.
After six weeks of intense daily work, changing this and editing that, revising here, creating there, it hit me like a ton of bricks I’d left out a third character who, while on the fringes of the action, plays a very important part in the last third of the story. Without this character, the heroes cannot do what they need to do to uncover the mystery.
I spent one entire day trying to re-work, re-write, streamline, edit, and make this happen. The frustration level was mounting, so I stepped back for the night and thought it through. Spent the evening with the Macbook Air in my lap, working Scrivener to death, arranging and re-arranging, making notes, revising dialogue.
Yesterday, I realized it just isn’t going to work.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but not in this incarnation. The final nail that sealed its doom is that the Big Mystery, the Solution, the ‘snap’ in the tale, the Lost Ark, the MacGuffin, the Major Shock…. well, it was horrifying ten years ago, but today wouldn’t get more than a ‘ho-hum, this old chestnut again?’
Okay. There is no shame in graceful surrender. Not everything works the way we plan it. Sent a private email venting to certain people, all of whom came back with “Don’t throw it away!” and some terrific words of encouragement (this is why we have friends, and if they are writers too, they understand the frustration of it all.) This one isn’t working, archive it, move on, think of something else.
Sometimes, despite my cynicism, I have to wonder if there really are Angels around us.
Less than two hours after that, an acquaintance on Facebook posted an interview with Michael Chabon about his ‘failed’ work, ‘Fountain City’, and how he is allowing the first four chapters and a cautionary foreword to be published. Harlan Ellison recently released a four page fragment of what was to be a magnum opus, a dream project, when he realized (as he explains in the footnotes) the unbelievable hubris of himself, that he would even dare to attempt this particular kind of story. Stephen King, according to legend, has left very strict instructions about the material in a certain steamer trunk in his office upon the event of his passing; something about a blowtorch and kerosene, if I remember correctly. Boo’s friend Harley and I have had long long talks about how amazing it is that anything ever gets done in The Movie Business. (Talk about all the Stars and Planets in the Known Universe lining up just to get a movie made… and the tiniest glitch along the way can tank the entire project, sometimes after millions of dollars have been put into it. Ye Gads!)
Was poking around early this morning online, doing some research, and ran across some interesting stuff for a possible New Christmas Mystery. Something different, potentially a little more paranormal than usual for me, but the idea is there and cooking and simmering and in the next few days it’ll bubble to the surface and come together.
Frustrating business, this Writing Stuff. I keep telling myself I’m still a young man, I could get into something decent and reasonable, like selling used cars, or condo time-shares to retirees, or maybe television evangelism.
But then, the words flow, the plot holds, it all comes together, and, to quote Freddy Shoop, "This shit works!"
If Stephen King and Harlan Ellison and Michael Chabon and countless other writers had to abandon more than one project, then whatthehell, I’m in good company…..
A note from your blogwerker: The Tarts and I would love to be nominated for a Bloggie, the 2011 Annual Weblog awards. We would appreciate it if you were to go here and nominate us (best group blog or best-kept secret seem to be the best catagories) before the 16th of the month.