As I mentioned in my last post, I've spent the time since the end of the first round of Camp Nano working on some short stories. Three of them, in fact.
I've finished all of them now, each of them printed out and gone over. The first has been submitted. The last still needs the changes put into the computer (I edit on paper. Also, I realized that I had gone over the word count limit by more than 200 words and needed to take out words) The second one, though, has left me wanting more.
When I originally thought of this idea, I was excited by it. I thought it would be a great short story. My critique group would love it, and I could maybe expand on it at a later date. I couldn't wait to see how it turned out.
Well, it seems that it turned out a little underwhelming. I knew it was going to even as I was writing it. I still can't put my finger on what, specifically, is wrong with it. The main character annoys me. There doesn't seem to be any action when there should be lots of it, and the end just seems too easy for the antagonist.
I don't know how many of you have ever felt that. I know that I have. Even with my novels. It makes me want to shelf the entire thing and move on to better ideas that I'll be able to write better. That will be able to sell better. Anything to get away from the story that just isn't right.
With a short story, it's pretty easy to say it needs to be redone and throw the entire thing. The story was only about 3500 words. I know that I can write another one with no problem. I'm not even going to throw out the idea behind it, I'm just going to adapt it to a new way to look at that same idea. It shouldn't be too hard, and I'm hoping that it comes across better than the original did.
The novels, however, are another story altogether. We spend weeks, months or even years working on a single novel. They can be hundreds of thousands of words long. Throwing all of that in the garbage to start again is not only demotivating, it's also quite detrimental to us as writers.
I've always been a big believer of 'You can edit crap, you can't edit nothing.' As writers we have the ability to go back over work that we think is subpar and fix it. Make it into the very thing that we wanted it to be in the first place. Sure, that could include rewriting, adding or even straight out deleting scenes, but we're still working with the original content.
Throwing out an entire novel is like saying that we wasted all of that time. It's not salvageable. For me, at least, I start to think that maybe I can't do this. That I'll never get published. That if I'm not good enough to write that novel, what makes me think that I can write any novel?
It's not a good frame of mind to be in.
Now, sometimes the novel really isn't salvageable. I've had a couple of those myself. However, I've never completely thrown out a novel. I've never hated it so much that I've deleted it off of my computer, or shredded the paper copy. I keep everything I write, because I learn something with each project. If it wasn't for those failed novels, I doubt that I would have been able to write the two short stories that I love so much.
So I will rewrite the short story, and I will continue to try to find the gold under all the crap in my novels. Because, in the end, sometimes we have to trust what we were thinking in the moment, even if we don't quite get it afterward. Eventually we'll figure it out.