01 May, 2013

Will I Ever Be Able To Do That Story Justice?: An IWSG Post

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and co-hosted this month by Lynda R. Young, Mark Koopmans, and Rachna Chhabria. From Alex's blog:
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The first novel I wrote is the first I finished--and every once in a while, usually 1-3 times a year, I'll suddenly be struck with inspiration for how to revise it. The story has a particular piece of my heart attached to it, which may just be because it is my first novel, but I'm still continually drawn to it several projects later. It's a gigantic mess right now (I divided into a trilogy with a total of around 500,000 words . . . which is not as bad as it sounds when you realize it was originally a single book) and I want to fix it.

However, whenever I think about the story after that brief moment of inspiration, I run into walls. Perhaps (probably?) they're manufactured walls, but when I think about all the things I want to achieve in rewriting the project I always feel like I'm entirely inadequate to fulfill those aspirations. To capture the pieces of humanity I imagine in my head, to make the plot as intricate as those in the stories I really admire, to avoid turning the characters (one in particular) into stereotypes.

Then I wonder if it's even worth going back to. Few writers seem to have their very first novel published, having written and polished several projects before coming up with something truly publishable and/or ready to submit. Assuming it is . . . I wonder if I'll be skilled enough at writing to not turn the story into another mangled pile.

Have you ever had a story that returned to you again and again over several years? If so, did you wait until you'd worked on other projects before writing/rewriting it? Do you usually feel up to the task of working on your stories?

-----The Golden Eagle


Denise Covey said...

Hi Golden. Writing that first novel is the best writing course we can undertake. But will it ever be published? Probably not.

Pat Hatt said...

500,000 words, damn you really went to town on it haha first ones tend to be hit or miss, usually miss. Look back on mine and shutter.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Even divided into three books, that's huge!
You might write other things, returning to it now and then, but that's all right. You learn writing by writing more. And the better you become, the more capable you will be to polish it.
My first manuscript was a mess. It sat in a drawer for thirty years. I finally pulled it out again and set off to rewrite it, ditching all but one scene.
That manuscript was CassaStar.

JeffO said...

500,000 words? Holy moley! Or moly. Whatever it is.

Oddly, I feel like, once I get to a certain point, I'm done. If these stories are deemed worthy of publication, I'll happily revisit and revise. But unless it something really, really jumps out at me, no.

Liz said...

I've just gone back to my first novel. I finally figured out what I need to do to fix it. It only took me a decade to get to this point.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

If you become famous like George Bernard Shaw, you can expect it to be published! Luckily, my first novels were burned along with my home -- no temptation to have them published! :-)

mshatch said...

I have a trilogy that's half written (my second wip)that I desperately want to complete at some point. The first book is 219,00 words. Yeah.

Cindy Dwyer said...

When I decided to write a humor book I had absolutely NO idea how to actually do it. I had written a few essays, but that was it. How the heck was I supposed to turn 750 word essays into a book?

I learn by doing, so I wrote a romantic suspense based on scenarios from the hospital where I worked at the time. (i.e. no research involved to complicate anything!)

I don't know if I will ever go back and clean it up, but even as a draft I know it's decent. Certainly it was a relatively easy way to figure out how to write an 80,000 word finished product. But yes, it does hold a special place in my heart. Maybe someday I will invest the editing it would need and see what happens from there.

Charity Bradford said...

The first novel I finished was like this for me. It kept coming back over a ten year period. It's also the one that's now published. I couldn't let it go.

I think I get caught up in the same thing. I look at the entire 4 book series and feel overwhelmed. How am I EVER going to do this story justice. On the good days, the ones I actually write, I've managed to shut off the big picture and just concentrate on one scene or chapter.

It's important to know the whole story, but its like that old saying about eating the elephant. We have to teach ourselves its okay to write one bite at a time. And then come back and add those layers to make it wonderful. It's the sad pathetic skinny layer call 1st draft that makes me feel inadequate.

Good luck and keep trying!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I did finally contract my first book but only after I had revised it numerous times and written three more books after it.

Andrew Leon said...

You know, instead of trying to revise it, it might work better if you set the plot out and just start back at the beginning and rewrite it. It will become more cohesive that way, and all of your current knowledge and experience will be applied to it rather than to just the pieces you fiddle with.

Elaine Smith said...

I was going to say what Andrew said: if you use the knowledge you have gained by experience, plot the whole of the saga out - there could be essential storylines and some you could visit later in a different book/series - and start to write using your first manuscript as the warm-up preparation stage. Good luck with it.
Yes. I have been known to revisit and tinker with my work. Often, changing from third to first person.

Sandy said...

Knowing how cool it is to have your first one published, maybe you should leave it alone...or change the title slightly if you're going to change it and redo it? My SIL sorta had that happen. Long story, someone abused her copyright, sold her stuff black market in another country, now she can publish it as an e-book, but had to alter it a bit. Good luck.

Previously A-Z now moved into May

Summer Ross said...

I have one novel that I went back to for more than 4yrs, but I stopped and never finished it. The novel is two chapters away from actually being done. But my mother died before it finished and she told me she would tread it when it was done- so it rests on a shelf and I think about it from time to time- but that's as far as it will ever go.

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

I lost my very first book. I also lost my second book. They were done on typewriters (I'm that old) so all that existed were paper copies. Between moving, I lost them. I don't think they were all that good though.
500,000 words has got my eyes dropping out. Wow.

Charles Gramlich said...

Last summer I considered revising my first novel for publication. It was a western. I dutifully started on it and got only a chapter in before I realized it would be far better just to start something new. Of course, it wasn't 500,000 words either. That is a lot of words to let go to waste. In short, I don't really know what to tell you.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I wrote hundreds of short stories when I was a teenager, but none have ever seen the light of day. I do have one novelette I might return to now that I am a better writer. You might not be able to tackle it now, but keep writing and one day you will.

mooderino said...

It's hard to let the first one go.


The Golden Eagle said...

Denise: Yeah, I've noticed that's what a lot of writers say.

Pat: LOL. I went a little crazy. :P

Alex: Well, there's a first-novel success story!

JeffO: I've seen it as both . . . either way, I know, it's a horrific word count.

Some novels I've written feel that way to me. They're just not worth returning to, at least not now.

Liz: Better late than never, right?

Roland: I'm sorry about your home--though I'm sure all writers have had moments where they wished their manuscripts would go up in flames!

Mshatch: Sounds like mine.

Cindy: Basing stories on personal experiences certainly cuts out a lot of hassle!

Charity: Proper layering is something I really have trouble with. And linking them all up is a nightmare.

Thank you!

Susan: So you had more expertise when you went back to it. That's probably what I should do--write more and then attempt a rewrite.

Andrew: Agreed. That's really what I've been thinking about: Rewrites rather than revisions. Revising it would be near impossible, at least if I wanted something decent to come out of the work.

Elaine: Thanks! I've seriously considered expanding into other time periods in the same world.

Sandy: That's a sad story. Glad to hear she could still publish it under her own name!

Thank you.

Summer: It's too bad she never got to read it. The story must have a lot of emotions attached to it.

Michael: Yup, 500,000 words. I was insane to let it ramble on that long, but I had fun writing it. Too much, probably, based on the length.

Charles: I'm not really sure what to do, either. :P I think I might just wait longer, though.

Diane: I'm hoping I will!

Mooderino: It is. Surprisingly hard.

M Pax said...

I think of my first two series from time to time and believe I'll return to them in the future. I think I learned more faster by finally putting them down, though, and writing something new. One day they'll see the light... most like.

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

I think I've mentioned to you before, that I've been writing the same story for 6 years? Admittedly it a series of 5 books, but nevertheless. And because of that, I simply cannot move onto another project. Because, like you with your first, it has become a piece of our soul.

Not a bad thing methinks. We'll get there. We have to, right?

Anyway, if it's special to us, it will most probably be special to others ... readers perhaps? Just a thought.

Keep on keeping on, Eagle :)

Amy Jarecki said...

I can't imagine a 500K word novel--Holy smokes! My first is in a shallow grave. I do think about it from time to time, but, alas, I've moved on...

Rusty Webb said...

I've got my first novel, The Blutonian Death Egg, that I revisit at least once a year. It's a mess - but I tend to think of it as a beautiful one.

I'd say that if you really think there is something there then to try to re-outline it and work on it that way as much as you can. Makes it easier to shuffle things around. Using notecards might help too - each scene gets one card and you can see problems easier that way too.

Good luck.

Susan Kane said...

I am like you, in that I also have a novel special to me. My mind turns to it and I think about what to do in revisions. Maybe, someday?

Jan Newman said...

Sometimes . . . painful as it is, you need to let a story go and move on. It's an individual decision, a legitimate choice. Chances are, if you're not going back to it, you've already chosen. Just a thought.

Emily R. King said...

I haven't had this problem, but I haven't been writing that long, I guess. I think you'll know just what to do with it someday. Perhaps you're not done yet!

DWei said...

Sounds like one of my projects for me, Project Pitch specifically.

Damn editors haven't been paying attention to any of my proposals, even the new ones that I've submitted.

I think being ignored is worse than rejection.

Simon Kewin said...

Great post. I feel that sense of inadequacy all the time. But fortunately I hate the feeling and it spurs me on to revising and submitting...

Gina Gao said...

First novels are always hard to let go.


C. Lee McKenzie said...

I have a hard time returning to a story after I've left it for a while, but I have done that and I have rewritten two. It's a hard job and I'd rather start fresh, but if I have a good plot in mind and my characters are strong, I'm willing to give it try.

Deniz Bevan said...

If it starts taking longer than a year, I feel like I'm moving way too slowly. Like I'll never catch up and never be published!
500,000 words sounds awesome though - so much room to play! A trilogy and maybe even some short stories left over :-)

The Golden Eagle said...

Mary: Interesting. There seems to be a lot of consensus on pushing forward with new projects in the meantime.

Wendy: Right! :)

Thanks for the support. Good luck with your own project--and kudos for sticking with it for so long.

Amy: LOL. I know, 500,000 words is a lot.

Rusty: I've tried re-outlining. Somehow it never really condenses in what I really want . . . which is why I'm inclined to give it more space, as much as it eats at me sometimes.

Thank you!

Susan: Maybe. You never know unless you try?

Jan: True, I haven't really gone back to it recently. It's been two years since I buckled down and attempted to fix things.

Emily: Guess I'll have to just wait and see. :)

DWei: I hope an editor expresses interest in your project soon!

Simon: Thanks.

Well, as long as it gets you writing!

Gina: I suppose they are. I'm certainly having trouble.

Lee: The characters are really strong in my mind. At least, one of them keeps popping up now and again.

Deniz: LOL. Thanks for the positive spin on a 500,000 word behemoth.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Oh, I have a book like that. It's on my pc desktop, and it's in a plastic box in a closet with all of it's revisions in hard copy.
I love the story. I love the characters. I just haven't been able to get it right, so I put it in the closet 5 years ago, and started pursuing other things.

I keep thinking, someday, I will be ready to make it all make sense. But not quite yet.
I actually have a 3-4 year writing plan, and then . . .I will tackle it.

And as for will it be published?

Well, there is this thing called indie publishing.

And Stephen King certainly published his first novel that sat in a closet for years . . .you know the fantasy series that's popular now.

The Golden Eagle said...

Tyrean: I'm impressed that you have your writing laid out for the next 3-4 years! I have no idea what I'm going to be writing in that time. :P

The Dark Tower Series? I didn't know those were his first works.