The very first book I tried to write (barring the awesomesauce vampire collaboration I did with a friend in high school) was fantasy. Secondary world. Set in a vaguely Renaissance era time period. You know, standard fantasy world.
I hated it.
There were things I loved about the book. There always are, otherwise there’s no reason to write it. I liked the dark fairy queen, I liked writing about changelings and a cat with a very special link to his human. I liked the gruff, reluctant hero and the way his wife communicated to him through her ghostly visage (though she was well and truly alive).
What I hated was the time period, which threw me for a loop. See, I love books written in with semi-historical settings. Kristin Cashore’s Graceling comes to mind. Brilliant book. The Song of Ice & Fire books, too, though I never kidded myself I could write anything approximating those vast and complicated tomes. Plenty others I can’t think of off the top of my head. It’s a setting trope I’m familiar with, and happy in, usually.
But I couldn’t write it. So, I set the book aside, this weird, rambling book languishing in the very first of my Scrivener files.
Cut to five years later.
I have this idea bouncing around in my skull that’s been bugging me for the last 2.5 years. Vampires that have discovered a spell to enchant a species of trees, producing berries that can fulfill their needs. I envisioned a kind of Romeo & Juliet story arc. More star-crossed lovers than pre-teen angst, though. But I put it off, thinking I couldn’t do the story justice. I didn’t quite know what to add to the seed to make it a fully engaging story.
I kept seeing these bits of advice: Don’t save your ideas. Don’t wait ’til you think you’re ‘good enough’ to explore those thoughts. Finally, I decided I would write it. And in my head, the story clung to a secondary world, vaguely Renaissance era setting. Horses, nobility, villages and dirt trails. I was cautious, because of my previous experience, but hopeful I could push through this time.
Then the weirdest thing happened. I failed. In exactly the same way. The story has ended up feeling weird and rambling, too long already for what I’m doing with it but at the same time I know it’s not because I;m overwriting. Well, pretty sure I’m not overwriting. And I’m bored. And frustrated.
I wrote not long ago about reaching that scary point, where you start to think your book is a pile of crap and questioning the whole concept of being a writer. I stand by that post: most of the time those feelings are just a matter of temporary insanity. This…feels different. It feels wrong. I’ve been pushing up against that feeling since shortly after I wrote the Scary Point post, and I’m done. So long, Blood Berries. At least, in your current incarnation. So long secondary world semi-historical fantasy. At least, for another five years.
Sometimes projects don’t work. It’s something that I’m learning to be okay with. More importantly, it’s something that I’m learning to identify, earlier, so I don’t waste as much time.
I may return to the seeds of this project and mutate them into something edgier, something more urban and current. I’m not sure yet.
Tell me your thoughts on half-finished projects and abandoned stories. How do you make the decision to quit?
Photo used under creative commons license from Hiking Artist.