Calling it quits on a story

About a month ago, I was struggling with my fiction writing. For some reason I’ve gotten it into my head that I want to try self-publishing and I want to try it now. But I don’t have anything to self-publish. That’s easy! I’m a writer, I’ll write something. But it just isn’t as simple as that.

Ages ago now I announced on this very blog that I was going to self-publish a novella, the first of four. This is an idea I’ve had for about 10 years, so time to get going, right? Right.
I wrote a novella, sent it to an editor who very correctly tore it to pieces. Never mind. I’ll start again. Except that it didn’t feel right.

So, I started on another but I couldn’t figure out the plot. I know all of the characters but their story just won’t come to me. No problem, I thought, I’ll write a pre-story. A very short novella giving the back story of one of the characters. Great! I came up with the plot and began writing.

But I was bored. And if you’re a writer, you’ll understand that if you’re bored writing it then your reader will be even boreder…borederer…they’ll be more bored.
So I sat down and rewrote the plot, and carried on writing.

During a particularly stressful day, I spoke to my mum (which is how I handle stress, she understands these things) and she told me to take a break. To go and do my own writing for a little while instead of client work. Of course she was right, but my immediate reaction was ‘nah, that’s boring.’
I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

Melodramatics over, this is where it went wrong! I have reminded myself that stories cannot be forced. How many times have I written a short story and submitted it without feeling the love only for it to be rejected (basically, every short story I’ve submitted bar one). To make a story zing and pop and have emotional engagement, the writer has to be in love with it. It needs to be consume my mind. And you know what’s been consuming my mind recently? My novels. Those big projects that have been put on hold while I try and figure out my self-publishing journey. Those stories that I want to try and put in front in front of agents and publishers first.

Not only does a story need to be loved, but I need time to formulate plots. It turns out that I can’t just sit down and work it out and bam! A story. Apparently, I need to dwell on the characters and let my sub conscious point me in the right direction. That can take a week, or it can take 10 years. But what I do know, from comparing my work, is that however long it takes, it’s worth it.
And you’d have thought I’d know that about myself by now.

Writing fiction should be fun. And so I’ve put away that novella, although not the characters. The short novella may become a short story and the full novella may become a novel. But not yet. I need time to dwell on the characters, to learn about them. I need to wait until the time is right for them to take over my every spare moment. Only then can I do them justice, only then can I write something I’d be proud to let you read.
Frozen princessesSo the princess novellas are on hold. I won’t be self-publishing any time soon, unless inspiration strikes me in a particular way. But I will be writing the things I cherish, and I will be returning to working on short stories, and hopefully, in the future, I can share self-published stories about princesses who have broken the mould.

Tell me I’m not alone! Does it take you a long time to figure out your character’s stories?

4 responses to “Calling it quits on a story

  1. I know how you feel! Some characters shout their story straight away and off I go and write it. Others, yes, I’m still not sure of their story several years after the characters first appeared. As you say, forcing it doesn’t work! I’ve learnt that too. 🙂

    • Exactly! And don’t you just hate it that some characters take years to tell you their story. You know it’s going to be good, so why won’t they spill!

  2. Yep. I got up frustrated as all get out the other morning, it simply would not flow. At some point in the day it hit me; I had to get out of my head and into the character’s head. I think that was my way of understanding that I was trying to force the story to happen instead of letting the story unfold. So I stewed on it some and in a few days I was able to get back into it.

    • I’m glad you figured out the problems and fixed it! It really is so frustrating, isn’t it. Such a good feeling when you figure out the problem though 🙂

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