Monday, December 10, 2012

Hating Your Project

Every writer hates her project sooner or later. It's a necessary phrase of the writing process. If you haven't felt this way, you haven't been in the business very long.

Every job has a side to hate. If you have a non-writing job, and you envy those who stay at home and create all day, take some comfort in knowing that the "fun" job has its downsides as well. The administrative aspects, the taxes, the cold calling, the rejection . . . yep, some negatives.

But I'm talking about hating a project you're working on, completely different aspect. As a writer, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the profession is choosing our work. Ideas abound, and the difficult decision is often which ones to choose. The selection is intensely hard when you consider many projects involve a year or more investment, like a novel.

As a writer, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the profession is choosing our work.

Like living with a roommate, sooner or later you will clash with your friend. Sometimes that clash makes you stronger, as you clarify your relationship and clear out the nasty clutter getting in the way of a smooth friendship. At other times, you learn a side of the person you can't live with any longer, and you part ways.

When do you part ways with a project?

1) You hate it even after you give it a long rest.

We're constantly told to put down a piece of work, especially if it's the end of a first draft, and let it percolate. Come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear head. At that time, it should be refreshing to start anew. A certain excitement ought to permeate your writing soul as you enjoy making this story shine with edits because you see its potential.  This is most definitely a Lowcountry Bribe anecdote. I picked up a four-year old manuscript, and excited about how much I'd grown over that four years, I relished the opportunity to infuse new life in the story.

2) It's languished for months and you still can't pick it up.

You just can't make yourself open that file and start where you left off. There is no spark.  

3) You keep trying to love your character and it isn't working.

You've carved out this character. He's traveling his journey. He's making great accomplishments, or taking out the bad guys with amazing precision. Or he's a romantic. Or he's a fairy, a space traveler, a small town sheriff. Regardless of what he is, he isn't a character you can root for. Sometimes this means you need a serious rewrite, but before you do, step back and TRY to realistically analyze his future. Get others you trust to provide honest feedback to give their insight. Then, without further adieu, give the character the ax.

4) You're finishing it to make the money.

If you do not cherish this story, nobody else will. Readers can tell. Your writing is reflective of your passion. Don't let the fact you know writers with five and ten books on Amazon, drive you to put mediocre work in front of the public eye, for them to judge you and form a permanent opinion about you that you may never overcome.

5) You think more about your time invested than the success of the story.

This is probably the most used excuse for not tossing a story. We've all done it. We've all thought the words, "But I've been working on this for X months/weeks/days/years." Do you want to continually invest in a bad investment? Cut your losses, even if it's been a year since you started it. You have learned along the way. Discarding the piece is a huge lesson you'll learn from. Whether you do it consciously or not, you'll analyze what didn't work about that piece, and will more likely avoid the same mistakes in the future.

When I pulled Lowcountry Bribe off of the closet shelf, literally, I saw a good story and bad writing. I'd grown exponentially in the four years it had collected dust. And I threw away the computer file of it. Just deleted it, and started over. But I was in love with the tale and the characters. I was eager to make them better.

Every writer hates her project sooner or later.

We are in this job because we are devoted to seeing our words written in phenomenal order, making great images, delivering wonderful messages. Don't shortchange this end result. Expect trial and error, but be willing to recognize and toss the error.

9 comments:

Dean K Miller said...

So far it's been uncertainty, uncomfortability, displeasure, disappointment, disillusionment mixed in with joy, fun, discovery and progression.

But I'm a little less than two years into the project...so there's time...

But hate it? I hope not.

Hope Clark said...

Good deal! That's important, Dean.

Sioux said...

The old saying, "There's a fine line between hate and love," means that sometimes there is just one thing standing between the shriek-fest and the love-fest. Perhaps deleting the whole shebang, like you did. Or perhaps some minor revising. Or bringing in a new character. Or switching genre.

Hope, you're right. Hating a project happens, but it takes the persistent writer to work through it and make the piece work. Somehow.

Maria Fox said...

I'm just starting to learn this with my current work. The idea is 3 years old. I wrote the beginning to it then and it's stewed for a while. Then started writing it for NaNo this year just to get the ideas going. Now I'm already realizing places I can make it better and backtracking to rewrite. At the moment, I'm still enthusiastic and learning, excited where it will take me.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Interesting blog, Hope. Well said. Our jobs may sound ideal, but there far from perfect. It's easy to become reclusive, and a shut in, just as you have assignments in an outside job, I'm finding/learning/demanding I have to treat my writing career as just that. A career.

laurasalas said...

Great post, Hope. I'm guilty of #5 occasionally!

Kelly Robinson said...

Nothing enviable about working at home. For one, you're ALWAYS at work.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

This is right where I'm at today, Hope. I know it's part of the process but it's always good to hear reassuring words from somebody who's "been there." Thanks!

Hope Clark said...

For instance, today I took a break and went shopping with a girlfriend. Now I'm paying the price for taking off work . . . backed up emails, writing to complete, a blog assignment, etc. But I still love what I do, and I actually look forward to coming back to go to work. Of course I'll have to tell myself during tax time that I "love" doing everything on all those receipts I'm trying to reconcile. LOL