Saturday, December 1, 2012

Here lie the mortal remains of....

Au Contraire

{At least temporarily}

Sometimes you will have a beautiful plot for a story--a plot that is actually worthwhile, well thought out, and over-the-average exciting. You have well-rounded characters and a great setting. You have readers excited about the idea of this new book, and are all ready to write it. And when you sit down....the passion is lacking.

Teen auther Rachel Coker recently posted on Go Teen Writers about when to give up on a story. The whole topic scares the pididdle out of me, personally, because I hate thinking of giving up on a story. After all, I love my stories, I pour a lot of time and thought into them, and saying "never mind" seems like a sign of great weakness. It's even harder when you still love the story but it just isn't working out.

Is it okay to lay it aside for a time?

Or forever?

These are questions I've been mulling over since last writing about Au Contraire on this blog. Many of you are excited about Au Contraire and cannot wait to hear more about it. Perhaps it is my fault for writing too soon of a new project that I had hardly begun. But the truth is, after reading a beautiful historical romance (The Sound of Diamonds) written by my good friend, Rachelle Rea, I realized that sweeping, historical dramas/romance is not my territory. I got so excited over The Scarlet-Gypsy Song and Fly Away Home. I never tired of talking about them, writing them, and blogging about them. They were stories that captured me.
When people bring up Au Contraire, my stomach clenches and I put on my "I just met you and I hope you like me anyway" smile and explain what the plot is and why its great and what I love about it, and the whole time I know I'm trying to convince myself as much as them. This is why I say that I think I need to give it a sabbatical.

I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I think Au Contraire is a book with a killer plot, awesome characters, and great potential. But it is not my voice. I have worked hard to find my natural writing voice and have carved somewhat of a niche out of this corner of the world with my own distinctive style. I have written in several genres and there is a coherent thread running through all of them: my voice.

I knew I'd found my voice when I realized that my children's historical fiction, my mid-grade fantasy, and my adult inspirational romance all have a similar flavor. They are for completely different audiences, yet there is a certain something about them that marks them with Rachel's Goods. This is so exciting--it's a huge step in being a writer. Knowing your voice. It's like discovering that you have remarkably blue eyes or a gorgeous nose. (What? Noses are important to me! I don't care for mine.) The whole idea of Au Contraire balances on a careful point of drama, precision, emotion, and wit. I've got the wit, a bit of emotion, and a fair amount of precision, but I am not a drama-writer. This is what was getting to me. I would write a bit of Au Contraire, look at it and think, "This is good. But it's not me." You've no idea how vexing that is--realizing an idea doesn't fit, and having to bury it for a while.
For a while.
I'm not saying that I'll be through with it forever. I'm not even saying that I won't work on it at all. It's just that I don't think it's right to spend all my energy, time, and thought on a project that isn't fitting at this time. It wouldn't be honest to myself, as dramatic as that sounds. To put it quite plainly, it would be ridiculous. Think about it: a project I don't have a passion for, taking up every spare moment of my time, and every square inch of my brain? Is it wise? As sappy as it sounds, if my heart isn't in it, should I be wasting my time?

This is where I have to add a caveat: I feel better about laying this novel aside for the time being because I have ruled out three of what I call the "dangers of quitting."

1. This isn't my first novel. I'm not ten pages into my maiden attempt at authoring and thinking, "I can't do this." I've completed five novels total--three very presentable ones, and have other pieces in various stages of being. I would caution first-time authors about abandoning ship. You have to have a certain level of maturity and stick-to-tive-ness to be able to make this decision.

2. This wasn't inspired by another plot bunny hammering at the door. Although I do have several ideas and one "beginning" I was already considering what to do about Au Contraire. Remember, I've already laid it aside once on trial, then came back. No cigar.

3. I have thought about it and looked at it from all angles. I've thought about it from a professional point of view, (i.e. "What am I doing writing a book that isn't even my style?") I've thought about it from a personal angle, (i.e. "Am I trying to write like someone else?") I've thought about it from a creative angle, (i.e. "Could I write it in my own voice and make it work?") and all the answers point back to this: I need to lay it aside.

So. That being said, I am very sorry for having talked so much about a thing before seeing if it was a good fit for me. That's terribly unprofessional, and if I ever am going to be a published author, I can't be making pie-crust promises. Will you forgive me that?

Let me reiterate:

Au Contraire is not dead for good. At least not yet.

I do have a replacement idea. Several, actually.

And I will keep you updated.

Pax? All right. So now it's your turn to speak. Have you ever had to lay a project aside? What caused you to do it? Was it quitting, or making a thought-out decision? What would you change?


Esther Brooksmith (wisdomcreates) said...

I laid a project aside once because it was not my story. A story, even if it is not original, must be YOUR story before you tell it to your audience.
By the way, even if it was not professional to share Au Contraire before it was a certainty, I am glad you did because I appreciate the opportunity to learn about how to lay aside a project.
Thank you, Rachel!!! I look forward to your next project!

Jade said...

It is wise and mature to be able to put aside a project, to analyze the reasons for doing so without giving up for no good reason, as you have done. I think trudging through a story unhappily is not the way to go. It's not always bad to give up. :) Wishing you the best with your next project!

Rachel Hope said...

I know the feeling well, I have had to lay aside a story that I knew I didn't know enough about. I know I will go back to it someday but that will only be when I have learned more about the history of the time.
its hard but I think it stands to be said that it takes a writer to know her, or him self enough to know when they are in over there heads. Or when there isn't enough inspiration.
I hope you are able to find something that you are in love with, and perhaps you might find the inspiration to pick up au contraire again. Either way
bully for you having the courage to lay something aside like that, and know that doesn't mean you are a quitter.
Blessings ~ Rachel Hope.

Jack said...

I fear quitting, but sometimes it must be done. Sometimes the story we think we would like to write just isn't our story.
(I had to do some. I tried them, but I just couldn't finish them.) And it is all right, we don't have to finish ever single book we start 8-)

Star-Dreamer said...

Oh yes, I've done that with several of my novels. I finished the first in a trilogy and started on the second book, but by then I knew that the first had to be re-written if it were to go anywhere... and by that time I had already started another book (the book I'm currently pouring all my time and thought into). I also have a nano-novel that ended up getting laid aside because it needed to sit and stew and have more thought thrown in, etc...

Those novels will be returned to eventually, but right now SOTD is my whole writing world. Right now, it is the story that NEEDS to be told, and once it has been told and is complete, then I will go back to my first writing baby and fix it all. :D