Monday, January 11, 2010

The Scrap Pile

I started working on a particular story many months ago. I made it about 10,000 words in before it slowed to a halt. I continued to work at it a little each day, but it felt like I was forcing myself. Pushing and shoving the word count higher. It was a high concept idea unlike anything I had ever done before. It required world building – which I’ve never done, and third person POV -which I am not a fan.  It is dark and doesn’t have much room for my humor. It has the potential to be a great story – but I have learned in the last few weeks – it’s not my story.
I argued with myself over this. I knew deep down that it wasn’t my story to tell, but it felt like giving up. I knew the story from cover to cover. How it would start, how it would end. The eerie details that would give it the chill factor. Hell, I scared myself with some of the scenes that I was rolling out. The problem was when I tried to write it, it died on the page.
There are two things that caused the death of this story. The first is that I didn’t love it. When I realized that I wouldn’t buy it – I knew I shouldn’t tell it. It’s not the sort of story that I read. With the internet, write what you know has grown exponentially, but write what you love – that should still be true. Secondly, I didn’t believe it. The world is coming to an end and all of humankind is depending on one couple. These stories are everywhere, both movies and books, and people eat them up. I can enjoy them, but when I’m done I’m left with the question, “Why?”  Although my story was unique and had a great spin on things with twists and turns that leaves the readers guessing who is the good guy and who is the bad, I can’t in good conscious write a story that leaves this big of a question floating out there. I try my best to not leave holes – and why these two people are so darn special – that’s a pretty big hole.
There are many things that I absolutely loved about this story. Characters that I adored and wanted to watch grow, the twists that I was speaking of earlier, a unique take on the devil and the end of the world. Because of this, I will not be hitting delete and adding them to the recycle bin. Instead they are getting a new home titled “The Scrap Pile.” I will leave it in tact like a car in the junkyard to be sold for parts when needed. Who knows, maybe Jared and Caitlin will find happiness in another story that is more my style. They deserve it after all I’ve put them through.
I’ve killed a storyline before, but it was normally because it was not going anywhere. And it normally happened a great deal sooner than this.
What was the most work you put into a story before you realized it needed to go to your “scrap pile”?  Did you keep it or delete it? Did you immediately dive into something else?


  1. This is a timely post. I'm literally staring at my 18k words on my new WIP, thinking about scrapping them all. It's the second in a series (not a sequel, but connected by characters) and I'm just not loving where the story line is going. So I'm strongly considering keeping my characters but throwing out the whole plot for a new one. *sigh* It's extremely hard to toss all that work though.

    Sounds like you made the right decision on yours. And I'm thinking I'll follow suit.

  2. Hmmm, I don't think this has ever happened to me. Well, actually, with a few sequels to original works I think it has, but I just dropped them because I moved on to better things. I'm ADD when it comes to writing long projects. :S
    Thanks for posting this, though! It really helps. :D

  3. I've completed a trilogy and am finally starting to get the feeling it's just not a viable plot. I love the characters, love the story line; but I'm not feeling it's marketable.

    Maybe it was just cathartic for me, or just an experiment to see if I could actually write something. Either way, I'm at a decision point. And aside from a few short stories, I haven't got anything I'm passionate about in the wings.

    But don't give up entirely on this work. You don't seem to be too far into it, and maybe it'll strike you as a decent short story, or you can fold those viable characters into another project. It isn't that unusual for back-story and character development to consume a high word count while lookin for a plot.

    Don't sweat it that you're moving on, but don't delete it. I like your Scrap Pile file. Like an agents slush pile, you never know what gems you might mine if later you dig through the detrius.

    Today's trash may be tomorrow's treasure.

    Good luck with your new project.


  4. I completed an outline and two chapters of a book, plus several ideas for further titles/ideas in the series, before I realized the idea was meant for someone else. The trouble for me was I KNEW it would sell. I KNEW it had a hook and a market. But I also knew it wasn't for me.

    VERY interesting post. I feel your frustration and I applaud your ability to move forward.


  5. After seeing your post I have to say that I'm dying to read this story. You completely sold me on it. Sigh. Can't you make it sound a little crappier so we don't have to wonder what we missed? ^.-

  6. The most work would probably be my first NaNoWriMo novel I wrote back in '04. I rewrote the thing five times. All 150k of it. Yes, five times.

    Then last year I finally allowed myself to actually accept what I'd known for awhile, that it's a novel that is just never going to see the light of day. Yes, it has some good bits and I like a few characters, and aspects of the world, but overall there are just too many problems and in some ways, it's not the kind of story I really want to tell.

    (I've realized I don't do epic fantasy. I don't have that kind of dedication and stamina--or interest--to carry a single plot over two books or more.)

    The novel got tucked into the 'scrap pile' folder and mostly forgotten about. (I'd been working on new projects all the time since finishing the first draft, though.)

    Usually when I realize (or, more likely, accept) something needs to be scrapped, I tuck it away and immediately begin working on something else. I've never had a problem starting too many things at once. ;)

    A very timely post, though, thank you. I've been thinking about a couple shorts I may need to scrap, sigh, and sometimes it's harder than others.

  7. Wow, you guys are amazing. It took a long time to come to this decision. I didn't make it lightly. And who knows, there may be a time when this story fits me a little more. Don't you get more cynical as you age? haha

    Roni- Take your time on that. Make sure it's not just a case of self doubt.

    Scott- Glad to hear it and hope it doesn't happen to you. May all your words continue to be the utmost of awesome. :)

    Donna - Now I haven't read your trilogy, but you finished them. If you love them, keep polishing and keep submitting. I've learned to submit slowly because I edit so dang much. Good luck - and I hope that the "grip the steering wheel" idea hits you soon.

    Michele- I'm with you. I know this would sell - if someone else wrote it. And again, maybe it will be me one day- just not now. It seems to need an older voice.

    Eric - First of all, welcome. Your profile made me literally LOL. Back to the comments - See, its comments like that that make me want to reconsider :-) I do think it would be an awesome story. And there's this one guy who does this one thing and then BAM, nothing is ever the same. haha.

    Merc-150K words. If I combined everything I've ever written, it wouldn't equal that. (counts on fingers and toes) Yep, even counting the blog posts. haha. That is quite an accomplishment. Good luck with your current wip.