Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

screeching halt March 29, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 5:08 pm

I started a short story a few days ago to try to dig my way out of this rut I’ve fallen into figuring if I had something that I could submit I’d feel a lot better (okay, until the rejection letters start rolling in). I got through about 4 pages… then this morning I was thinking about my story and realized my original climax was not going to make sense. Given the context and the people, it would just never happen.

So now I’m left with what feels like a rotten piece of wood, crumbling away from my fingers. Back to square one.  I wonder if I should try to salvage my story. It’s tempting to do so, yet I feel there’s danger in settling or forcing something  that shouldn’t be.

This feeling underscores a more general resistance I have with rewriting. When rewriting, I no longer see all the possibilities of plot or character development. I’ve already chosen a set path, and breaking out of it becomes increasingly difficult the more I’ve written. Part of it is the physical work that happens. If I alter this scene I’ve set off a cascade of plot and character inconsistencies that I now have to go and fix. And if I change those I’ve potentially set off a new batch. But the worse part is that I no longer can see as many alternatives. So I end up tinkering with what I have, and end up with something in between the original and what a proper rewrite should be.

I’d much rather start fresh, nothing but a blank page and an infinity of possibilities before you. Hence the drive to constantly start new projects, and maybe that’s where writers are forged, in the moment between giving up on a manuscript to start a new one and deciding, while battling nausea at the thought, to take on an existing piece for the second last time.


4 Responses to “screeching halt”

  1. deano Says:

    Recycling is good.

    And you’ve already identified the equation for your stymie: the plot’s climax doesn’t jive with your characters and/or their situation.

    Using The Calculus: PC is less than the integration of C, as operated on by the function S, between the boundary values s & e.

    PC = plot climax
    C = characters
    S = situation
    s = start of short story
    e = end of short story

    Of these variables, which do you _like_?

    If the answer is ‘none’ (or Null Set, to extend the calc metaphor to dangerously annoying levels), then OK, good idea to restart.

  2. EelKat Says:

    I’d let it collect some dust for a few months, while working on something new. Than, say 4 months from now, take it out again and try working on it again… by that time, you’ll have have time to forget about the story, and be able to look at it “with the eyes of your readers” and you’ll be better able to judge what you should do with it


  3. itsy Says:

    thanks for the laugh, deano. did you use this equation for your nano novel? 🙂

    and thanks for the advice, eelkat. it’s funny, writing feels like such a unique and lonely task, but in reading through other writers’ sites, i’ve concluded we all complain about the same things. but somehow, we’re convinced that ours is unique and worse in some way!

  4. I hate it when this happens, and it has happened to me several times on my current project. I thought I had a great idea, wrote over half of it, then discovered the entire premise doesn’t make sense. I was able to salvage some ideas, but it still sucks when it happens.

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