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?