Sunday, May 15, 2016

Writerly Rants - Shelving Projects

Tonight, I took the manuscript I've been working on for the last year and shelved it.
>50K words; two drafts.
An idea I was so excited about nine months ago deflated.
Promises of a finish line and a delivery date to my agent cancelled.
I threw my hands up in defeat.

I had no choice, you see. I've been sitting here in front of my computer for weeks staring and agonizing because I didn't recognize this lumpy story I had in front of me. It was just a pile of words and scenes and characters. And there was this thread of story--there was a lot of WHATs going on, but no WHYs.

Why was this happening?
Why would this character react this way?
Why would it go down THIS way rather than THAT way?
And most importantly, what am I trying to say with this story?

I have this problem. I want people to read my work and weigh in, because who doesn't love to hear feedback? But this story didn't incubate long enough. I didn't let it rest and stand back and let myself re-examine it. I didn't give myself the time to throw my all into it. To work until the late hours of night, writing feverishly. Or replay scenes over and over in my head, perfecting each and every line of dialogue. Instead, I wrote it like a shot in the dark. Throwing spaghetti at the wall. Hoping something stuck. Then too many fingerprints got all over it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm totally grateful for the time and effort people take in reading and critiquing my work. But if it happens too soon in the process, it derails me. Instead of finding the road that leads to the story, I'm taking some back way that someone else took this one time. The journey to finding a story is different for every person and every story, and we have to go our own ways at our own speeds.

So I'm sitting here with something shelved. As in, not trashed, but waiting for the dust to clear. Because, at some point, I'll grasp for the right sound and shape and it will be there for me. The story that wants to be told. That feels right and not forced. That is true to my vision. And it won't involve Band-Aid plotting or Frankensteined scenes.

I'll work on something new, and let this project rest. Give it space and time. Until that moment when I have a thought, "I wonder if I did this..." And then the process starts anew and a new story is born.


  1. Shelving can definitely work wonders for you rediscovering the necessary inspiration. Good luck :)

  2. It's definitely hard to put away a project you've worked so hard on, but every manuscript makes you a better writer no matter what.


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