Friday, December 3, 2010

Letting It Go

In a fit of boredom yesterday, I opened my Stories folder on my computer and took a stroll down Amnesia Lane. More specifically, I read over my NaNoWriMo attempt from 2005. Ok, more to the point, attempts three, four and five. Which might be considered totally separate books from the original because the story changed drastically.

Version five, the final incarnation is actually, somewhat, pretty decent. I think. But it only weighs in at 46K words. That's a novella.

I spent a couple of years massaging this book. Massaging, beating it into submission, pistol-whipping it, then banishing it to the dungeon where it has languished in writer purgatory for the last three years.

Five years is a long time. And I am still not entirely satisfied with said book. There are parts that are good. And parts that just plain suck. The ratio of good to suck is about 1 to 10. I don't know that I have it in me to balance that ratio.

So, here is my question: At what point do you let a manuscript or WIP go? When do you cut your losses and admit that you and your book are slow dancing in a burning room (to borrow that line from John Mayer)? You have invested time, blood, sweat and tears to making this thing work, but it still ain't workin'? When do you say good-bye?

Is it possible to come back to something after years (and more years), and projects when you as a writer have changed? Maybe learned a thing or two? Or are there books that just aren't meant to be written?

Being the stubborn biatch that I am, I don't know that I am ready to kick this book to the curb. Or am I just hanging on for sentimental reasons?

Any fellow wordslingers out there experienced this problem? If so, did you exile your book to the Island of Misfit Novels or did you give it one more go?


  1. I have quite a few who've taken up permanent residence on that island, as you well know. haha

  2. Ah, the pain of separation. My sympathies. I stuck for a few years with what I hoped would be a post-apocalyptic fantasy series set in the South. It didn't work. Eventually it became a novella, and one that didn't sell, at that. I now know various things that are wrong with it that could be fixed (and that could turn it back into a novel), but I figure I'm better off starting something new, with the strengths I have to offer in creating new stories today vs. six years ago. I like the story, but as I read somewhere along the line, words are free, and it doesn't cost anything to write more. :-)

  3. Well said. Words are free, indeed. And that's pretty much where I'm leaning; starting something new instead of trying to retread the other thing. Though there is a tiny part of me that won't let it go. It's stalking me like a bad boyfriend.

    As to the novella thing, seems like it might be time for those to make a come-back? I wonder why novellas aren't considered very marketable. At least as far as I've heard/read/seen.

  4. I think novellas aren't considered very marketable for a bunch of reasons. From our (writer) end of things, there aren't many places that have open submissions for novellas, and only eight of those as of this morning on Duotrope pay semi-pro or better, and I can't count the number of times I've seen mags or anthos with a "longer stories are a harder sell for us" note. More opportunities in the token or non-paying category, of course, and there are occasional anthos with open reading periods, but if I'm going to spend energy on something 10s of 1000s of words long, I'd rather spend it on a novel. From their (publisher) end, I understand that novellas are generally hard to package and sell, and people don't often buy them. They don't provide the short, sharp burst of a short story or the long, slow pleasure of a novel read. And that's a long, boring answer to a casual question. :-)

    Personally, I like novellas just fine, especially horror or fantasy. What I have trouble reading are often novelettes/long stories, where I keep feeling the story ought to be ending and isn't.