May 14th 2010
The Ones You Walk Away From
(My apologies to Ms. Le Guin for the advertent pun. This post has nothing to do with her story. It’s just about writing.)
When do you know it’s time to walk away from a writing project? Sooner rather than later, you hope. Better to put aside a story during the outline than decide it doesn’t work on the seventeenth draft.
My last project was an example of the latter. It was a book I knew I had to get out of my system before I could write anything else, and, having spent eight years writing The Stoneways, I had no desire to jump into any of the longer projects I had in mind. So I wrote the book, polished it up, and sent it off to my beta readers.
Half of them liked it. The other half said, meh.
Unfortunately, the mehs all agreed. When multiple beta readers agree about a book’s drawbacks, it’s usually a good idea to pay attention to what they’re saying, no matter how many other readers like it. They gave me some good possible fixes, but all of their suggestions pushed the book away from the direction I wanted it to go, so I ended up moving on to the next project instead. I didn’t like it, but I had to acknowledge that I hadn’t pulled off what I was trying to do, either because I didn’t have the writing chops to pull it off, or because the idea wasn’t that good in the first place. (Hopefully my problem is the former – you can always improve. But you can’t make a silk purse out of a cliché.)
Sometimes you just have to walk away. Get some distance, give the hindbrain time to poke at the idea while you work on something else. I already have some ideas, even.
I just wished I’d figured out what I was doing wrong six months ago.
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Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.
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