Close to three months ago when I made the decision to write in a committed and purposeful way, more specifically, to write a novel, I found many great blogs about writing and I began reading them religiously. Writers posting about successes, frustrations, struggles and advice have been an incredible source of support and inspiration to me. Early on I read quite a few literary agent blogs too, hanging on to each piece of advice and each anecdote. The literary bloggers helped to round out my efforts to read more and better fiction.
Books have been a huge contributor to my growth. At first, I devoured nothing but books on writing. Novels, short story collections and even some poetry made up the rest of my reading. New works, old works, there are so many I’ve read and so many more that continue to pull me in.
Through it all I was posting nearly every day. Writing the posts has been a learning experience in and of itself. Many times, I had crises of confidence and each time I received wise counsel from those of you who commented.
It’s time to assess where I am, what I’ve learned and where I need to go from here. I’ve learned that everybody has different ways and different challenges when it comes to being able to fit writing into real life. My job requires more of me at some times than others. Summertime is one of the times the job demands more so rather than feeling frustrated at the limited time I’ve had to write recently, I just accept it. I’ve learned that I’m not a seat of the pants writer and that working on my manuscript every day isn’t productive for me if I’ve come to a place where I’m not sure of what to do next or if I don't have the energy or the focus to put into it. I’ve learned that in addition to my job and my writing, my relationships need equal time too. When I neglect my partner, my family or my friends because I’m too busy working and writing, the writing suffers because my life is out of balance. I’ve learned that no matter what else I’m doing, I’m always thinking about my writing and that means I’m still working on my writing. Details come to me and blank spots fill in while I’m doing laundry, checking the mail, sitting on a conference call or having dinner. I’ve learned that for me, reading great fiction on an ongoing basis is just as important as writing is.
In just two weeks, I’ll be attending my first writers’ retreat. Mentally preparing for that experience has brought me to terms with some issues I’ve been struggling with about my manuscript. Despite the year and a half off and on that I’ve spent working on this story, I find that it isn't the unique and compelling novel I first thought it might be. Tonight it stands at just over 35,000 words and 142 pages. I printed out the first chapter, which has been revised many times and although I’m pretty happy with the writing, I’m not excited about where it’s going anymore. I unintentionally filled my first manuscript with many elements drawn from people and situations far too close to real life and it’s become a problem.
A couple of weeks ago an idea for another story came to me. The new story and characters are entirely fictional. Unlike my first manuscript, I know the entire story from beginning to end (for the most part) and there are some concrete internal struggles for the two main characters that I have very clear ideas about.
I initially resisted the idea of setting my first manuscript aside. I didn’t want to quit and thought by not writing through to the end, I’d be quitting. I don’t believe that anymore. I think there is some good writing that I can return to at some point and perhaps reshape into a better novel. I think that trying to push myself to finish a tale that no longer inspires me is not a good use of my time. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time writing what I have. To the contrary, I feel like it’s been an incredible learning experience, but I don’t think it makes sense to take it any further right now.
Many of you have mentioned having first and second manuscripts that didn’t go on to be published, although some were submitted to agents and even editors. How many of you abandoned a novel prior to finishing, whether you are published or unpublished? What made you decide it was time to start over? Did you struggle with your decision to set the unfinished draft aside?