Quit beating that dead horse

Yikes! Is it Monday already? How did that sneak up on me…

Well, there’s no reason to stall this – it’ll hurt just as much now as it will later – so I’ll just give it to you all straight up: I’ve decided to put Devil’s Blood, and the seven book series it would ultimately be a part of, to rest.

Yup! The long sleep-a-ru. Burying that sucker. Ripping out its heart and putting it through the shredder. Setting it out to sea to make fish food. Yes, I will stop beating my dead horse.

You might be thinking this change of heart is sudden. I mean, didn’t I just announce I would self-publish my book this year? Didn’t I put it on the calendar? Didn’t I contact a cover artist and get a quote for an awesome drawing? Hadn’t I lined out an editor?

Well, yeah, that’s, ahem, actually is, um, kind of why I’m here. Kind of.

When I first asked someone to read my novel, I picked a good writer-friend. He was ‘good’ in the sense that I liked him and he liked me. We participated together on some contests. I helped with his novel, so he helped with my novel. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but we did know enough to encourage the hell out of each other. The second batch of beta-readers were no different, as were the third batch.

Through it all, not one beta-reader thought the book was great without major revisions to character development. I tweaked my manuscript here and there, thinking I was responding to each of their concerns, but in the end, I wasn’t.

Why not? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it is because I do not want to change my characters. In my head, they are who they are, and to change the nature of their character doesn’t seem right. I believe this is a newbie thing. I’ve gotten so attached to my characters that I see them as my babies, and, well, I wouldn’t tell my children to change so they could be more interesting? Would I? I love them just the way they are!

But…just because we laugh when little Emma makes those funny farting noises doesn’t mean we let her do it in public.

My characters are not public-friendly. Folks find them boring because they are passive. I need to write better characters, and make my plots character-driven and not a series of events.

I thought I was doing that. I really did, but in the end, I allowed my characters to just be who they are. I didn’t create them. They came to me out of the ether and I just used them as they presented themselves. It sucks when there’s no captain sailing the ship.

To say that I was surprised that an experienced editor would point out the obvious would be disingenuous. I suspected she would say exactly the things everyone else pointed out. Though I could see the writing plainly on the wall, I kept looking the other way, hoping someone would come along and move the words around for me.

Well, folks, there ain’t no one who will do that for you. At least, now I can face that Andreas’ story is a failure as a salable piece of fiction. I suppose it does work on some level, and it has been a huge learning experience for me, but it is not a commercially viable piece of fiction.

So what am I going to do now, you might ask?

I don’t know. There’s Clarion West. I’ve always wanted to take part in an intensive writer’s workshop. I can’t imagine getting the time off to do that, so I might have to settle for taking a class locally. There is a local writer’s workshop that I have meant to join, but haven’t because I figured I didn’t have time – I had a novel to finish! But, well, maybe I do have time now. As a matter of fact, I’ll make time.

My goal is to concentrate on short stories. Maybe after I complete a few good short stories, I’ll have the skills to create engaging characters with adventures to tell.

Happy Writing.

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16 thoughts on “Quit beating that dead horse

  1. I sympathize. I don’t know if it’ll make you feel any better, but you’re one (or several) up on me in that you’ve successfully gotten other people to read your book. I’ve been working on mine, in spurts, for years. I used to ask friends to read it, and would give them copies, and … never hear another word. (“Oh, that? Um. Where is that … I think … Er … look, is that a seagull?”) I stopped asking – but then, now and then, when I would mention to a new acquaintance that I was writing, they’d ask. I’d give it to them. Silence. I kind of stopped mentioning I was writing. Then last spring I had three separate people – including one of my best friends and a new friend who was already becoming very close and who is widely read in my genre, whose opinions I trusted – ask to read it. The latter demanded it. I told them its history in other people’s hands – in other words, don’t do that to me again please? They scoffed. I emailed them chapters as I revised and edited them.

    Three guesses how THAT worked out. They “forgot”, they said. Better: both started it and then forgot about it.

    Depression and self-pity ensued. I decided I’d quit. The logical conclusion is that I don’t write anything worth reading. It would be a relief, actually – quitting can be that sometimes. No more perceived obligation to properly finish the thing -! But a writer friend, who was the third person who offered to read it and had some good reasons for not remembering anything outside his own incredibly busy life, chastised me for expecting too much from “civilians” … I had the dead horse half-buried in the back yard, and he made me promise to dig it back up again and use defibrillators. I think it’s in a medically-induced coma now. I think I need to finish the thing and send it to him and get his opinion (if for no other reason than that he will apparently nag me till it’s in his hands).

    But I’m not sure.

    1. Hey Stewardy, I feel your pain. I think you should revive it. Or, at least, keep writing. I am. I intend to write short stories and maybe a novella or two. If we want to get better, we have to keep trying. Keep trying!

  2. I fully understand your frustratIons but if we writers must have a motto it needs to be “always prepare to murder your darlings”. If you’re not prepared to do that then perhaps you need to put it aside… not forever because there is always the possibility that you will wake up one day in one, two or five years thinking “Hey, I’ve figured out how I want to change this”. Put it to one side, but don’t kill it off for good because you never know how you might feel about it in future.

  3. That’s such a hard decision to make. I remember when I killed my first fantasy novel — it was the longest chunk of fiction I’d ever written (at about 140 pages unfinished), and I’d put a year at school into writing background material for my characters and my world, sketching maps and generally going David Eddings over it (before I even know that’s how he worked)…but then I started growing up and changing and the novel seemed way too trite to me. I might pick up the story again someday — not the draft — and start it over, but it won’t be for a long time.

    Anyhoo…I’m glad you’re continuing to write, Nila. Keep on keeping on and see where you go from there.

    I just got a new story idea the other day and scribbled out a few paragraphs so I didn’t lose it, so if my trilogy is forced into the path of the dodo, I have more in my head waiting patiently for its turn on the page.

    1. It is a hard decision. And I don’t do it lightly. All last year I struggled with the manuscript, trying to make it work. I think going through that struggle helped me realize that my premise was, not trite, but not fully formed. I will keep on writing, and maybe even in the same historic setting as I have been, but I need something new to work on. I have tons of ideas. Just not sure if any of them are any good! But I’ll figure it out.

  4. Maybe it is a change in experiences you need. One of the things I have noticed lately is how certain books and movies did not sit well with me when I was younger. Ideas just did not coalesce into understanding without the proper experiences. Worse, I could not say what was in my heart because I did not have the knowledge or the words to express my feelings. I hope you don’t give up on the idea of writing, but try to find new ways of saying what you feel. I am well aware that you may not find people with the open mind to listen, I struggle with that problem too, but don’t necessarily beleive you are wrong. I have a jaded view of others who judge my work from Art Competitions that I carry through to editors.

    Another thing I have noticed as time has passed is that others who felt my point of view was incorrect have come around to my way of thinking. Today, someone thinks your characters are boring, but tomorrow they maybe just right. You know as well as I do that our society has become very jaded and tunnel visioned, which makes it hard for many to look beyond their point of view. Also, given their tunneled vision, they may lack the vocabulary (understanding) to appreciate what you are saying and vis-a-vis you may lack the rosetta stone to translate your thought into their world right now. Maybe the break will do you good. Always remember that we both have dealt with the quirky limitations of fellow enthusiasts in the flash competitions. I only got multiple votes once, sigh. In addition, I will leave you with the only thing that keeps me going at times, many of the major writers got hundreds of rejections before they found that one person with an open mind that changed everything. Good luck.

  5. Another thing that keeps me sane is that people like Glen Beck and Bill O’Riely can get published. How hard can it be. LOL.

  6. I feel you. I’m coming to the same conclusion about my own first work. I’m not going to abandon the idea, but I am going to rewrite it from scratch. Maybe there’s a piece here and there that I can use, but the printed first draft is mostly going to function as a doorstop.

    Honestly, I think it shows an artistic maturity for us to cut loose a piece of work. Professionalism might be a better word. Either way, we’re honest enough with ourselves to know when it just isn’t working out.

    Still, it’s always a bummer to bid farewell to a beloved project.

    1. Yes! I remember someone telling that not everything we write is going to be stellar. Some of our pieces will be great and some won’t. I guess this is they-ALL-can’t-win-a-Pulitzer sort of thinking, which seems reasonable. Hard, but reasonable.

  7. I can certainly sympathize, but I have a question. Did you get feedback from an editor, or is this in anticipation?

    Aside from that, putting the book aside for a while might be a good thing. Moving on to other projects will clear your head. And maybe, you’ll be able to come back later, to find out what else these characters have to say.

    Another writer commented on her blog that her best editing tool was six months. I’ve certainly found that to be true.

    1. This is in response to an editor’s feedback. Nothing harsh or undeserving, just major issues with the plot and characters. She didn’t say anything that everyone else didn’t say, she just said it all at once.

      Good advice about the six months, though I think mine might be a little longer. Either way, it should be fun to try something new. I’m actually quite relieved.

  8. Oh wow! I only just read this post :-/ Sorry.
    That must have been a very, very difficult decision.
    But, to be honnest, I wish I had the balls to ditch mine (but I couldn’t even if I wanted to as my parents kinda pressure me to do SOMETHING with it… well that’s another story…).
    I’m actually sitting here at 2am, editing yet another draft of my story (now cut into two pieces…), wondering how I’m ever going to get this thing done. I suppose … in the end self-publishing it will be just a way for me to finally get it out of my sight in the end.
    So yea, I totally understand your plan and your decision. I hope everything goes well! Best wishes.

    1. Hey Learco,

      Yeah, it was a big decision, but something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. Do I keep hammering at it till I’ve worked it into something I hadn’t intended, but will sort of work? Or do I move on, learning from my mistakes and come up with something better? I may come back to it, you never know, but for now I’ve got plenty of projects to work on to improve my skills.

      I understand where you are at, but I think your story is a lot closer to publication than mine was/is. Just keep working on it and good luck! 🙂

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