Bad Boyfriends, Old Lovers and Ex-Husbands

Robin Mermaid’s post last week (Love It or List It? Nov. 17) got me thinking.  She had started with a book review, but then she mentioned an unfinished story that was haunting her.  She put aside a project that was giving her trouble when another idea caught her attention.  Now she’s had a chance to take another look at the unfinished manuscript and wonders if she dares to take it on again.  Can she fix it?  Will it change?  Do they have a future?

I know that story all too well, as I’ve had more than one abandoned (relationship) manuscript in a checkered, challenged and generally lackluster (dating) writing career.  There was the hero intent on restoring a vintage Tucker automobile.  The other hero who rode a motorcycle.  The heroine left at the altar (she kept the ring).  The flirtation with inspirational fiction.  The heroine escaping an abusive husband (no, not from personal experience!).

Not one of these stories saw daylight. The floppy disks and hard-drive files are long gone or reused for other projects.  But they all had their moment.  They all served their purpose.  Only one of those ideas has hopes of being resurrected (not the abusive husband!)

In being unfinished, abandoned, left behind or dropped, they are a lot like the bad boyfriends, old lovers or ex-husbands we may have experienced.  Those relationships taught me a lot (well, not the ex-husbands, since I’ve had just the One True Love).  But the others let me learn – about what love is, how to maintain it, how to know when it is over, how to survive its loss.  I certainly had plenty of boyfriends before meeting the OTL who can put up with just about anything.  I’ve dried my share of tears.  I’ve done plenty of mourning, for good relationships that faded and bad ones that cheated or lied and moved on.  Even when I didn’t want them to go.  And I learned.

The same ideas go with stories that start out well and then seem to just lose their zip.  Or have flaws that only show up after years of struggle.  Try as I might, they won’t behave and I can’t get them to change.  I’ve cried over those, too, and mourned them and wished they would come back.  We would make it work!

I believe now that those unfinished stories are lot like those bad boyfriends and old lovers.  They taught me to let go and not believe that I’m the best match for that work.  They also taught me how to write a better story.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in finally getting a scene right, a plot point made and achieving crisp dialogue.  I learned how to write better stories because of those pages.  Would I go back to them?  Not on your life.  And we won’t discuss the men.  For all you know, they’ll end up as characters in a future book…

Have you ever had a story that fought you, or seemed to misbehave when you thought you had it under control?  Did you ever just give up and move on?  What did you learn about yourself and your writing?  Or, did you find a way to compromise, so the two of you could have your own authorial HEA?








About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).

16 thoughts on “Bad Boyfriends, Old Lovers and Ex-Husbands

  1. I’ll let you know when I get there Susan! Hehehehe! I have a historical that I thought was fantastic, and it is still a great story, but the more I wrote the more plot issues cropped up. Finally I just threw up my hands and walked away. That was almost a year ago. This fall I’ve been feeling a little more refreshed and I’m trying to make that story into all it can be. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

  2. lol…every story I write acts out. It’s the nature of the beast, I think, at least for me. And I do have a litany of stories I’ve abandoned, but I don’t always blame the story:)…I tend to think it’s my fault for not working on it long enough…mmmm…I will have to think about that, huh.

    1. Ha! We will have to compare and see who has suffered most. Those failed stories are tragic examples of relationships gone bad!

  3. Just dropped one that I started over the summer while awaiting replies from my finished novel. When request for revision for the finished novel was asked by an editor, the new one I had started, died. There were character issues but I love the idea of the story. In the mean time I’ve come up with another novel and a novella which are taking shape. Never a dull moment in this brain–either that or my Muse hasn’t stopped to take a breather.

    Hugs! 🙂

    1. Are you still working on the story from last year’s retreat? That was such a great idea, I hoped it would get the attention it deserved.

  4. Hi Susan,
    Right now I’m attempting to reach a compromise with my first completed work by going back and doing what I call “slash and trash”. That bad boy was over weight anyway! I’m a firm believer of “no sex with an ex” so once I cut one of those bad boys loose, I won’t go back to it. Just the way I roll, I guess.

  5. What I’m finding is that as I’m learning more about writing as a craft, I tend to give up less easily. In my earlier (younger – ouch) days, I had a tendency of abandoning a ms when the first problem arose. Now, I hang on a bit longer. 😉

  6. By the time I’m done, I hate them all. We’ve spent too much time together and need a little break. Then I see it across the room and I fall in love all over again. 🙂

  7. Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m not quite ready to throw the towel in because this book is the second in the series and it will get written one way or the other! We took a year long break from each other and now we’re getting along much better.

  8. I took heart from your blog. I used to force myself to muscle through a story, not matter how thorny, because I didn’t want to abandon something I had invested so much time and effort into. It was a bad tactic. The work tended to get more and more twisted until it tangled up tighter than two slinkies in a toy box. A frustrating waste of energy. Now if I get stuck, I set it aside for however long it takes. I let it breathe. Right now I’m working on four projects in tandem. I don’t know if anyone else does that, but it seems to work for me. I let the characters lead me. Certain ones pop into my head while I’m cooking dinner, or dropping off the kids at school, and I realize where I want to go with them next.

  9. All of my books are very bad, wicked boys who give me a run for my money. I hate them and they hate me for a while and then we usually kiss and make-up around revision time.

    And . . . my story will stay in the box. I decided to let it go and work on other things but I think I might cannibalize it and use scenes from it for other books.

  10. My last manuscript was painful for me to write. I started out loving it and then we started fighting, scenes weren’t ending the way I wanted, characters started doing the dumbest things. I managed to type THE END but I am so irritated with it I can’t bear to go back and look at it.

  11. Susan,
    I have given up on several manuscripts, but I think about them so often that’s it pitiful. Sort of like old relationships. Sometimes you find yourself wondering what ever happened to So-and-So and you imagine how things could have worked out differently. But, I think that is the nature of the writer. To imagine. To wonder. To create different endings. So, that’s why I know that I’ll someday go back to those manuscripts. Maybe I’ll change the ending. Maybe I’ll see where my characters went wrong. But, unlike real life, I can make things different. And someday, hopefully, my characters will get the HEA they deserve. 🙂

  12. Hi Susan! This was a great post with great responses. Thank you for putting it down for us. I haven’t abandoned a story yet. But I don’t have a good system for editing completed works and writing on the new stuff at the same time so sometimes it feels like I am abandoning one for the other. Do you have any advice? Thank you!

  13. This was such a fun post to write and I enjoyed all the responses, thanks to everyone who wrote! I love how people can see the connection between past relationships, the “what ifs” of life, and the bitchy manuscript. Although one of my students just now noted that he thought it was cute to see me referring to MANuscripts. He got the hairy eyeball…

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