WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

The lost ones …

I posted that piece of mine, “6 stillborn novels,” over at The Housewife the other day, in which I collected the opening paragraphs of six books I’ll never be able to complete. It got me to thinking. Why do some books gel while others cause no end of problems?

The funny thing is, as a writer you really believe in all of them at the outset. You’re throwing yourself into the project, not knowing up front whether it will be a book that gels or a book that languishes. You honest-to-God believe that you’re going to do this, and it’s going to be great. You’ve written notes, and the more notes you write the more enthusiastic you are. You’ve got your characters, you’ve got at least the brushstrokes of a plot, you’re flooded with ideas – you’ve got more than enough motivation.

Then, one day, usually with no warning whatsoever, the thing collapses before your eyes like a cathedral made of ice on the 4th of July.

Each of my six tales has its own downfall story. It’s like what Tolstoy said about families. Every unhappy one is unhappy in its own way.

Sometimes you get really deep into the book when suddenly its internal logic dissolves. Sometimes it finally hits you that you don’t get your protagonist like you thought you did. Sometimes it’s that the plotting is too mechanical and you can’t get the magic to happen no matter what you try. Sometimes you’ve picked the wrong point of view, sometimes the wrong era. And sometimes, in retrospect, you just realize the whole thing wasn’t a very good idea in the first place.

But if you hang on to everything like I do, you might just have enough to put together a little eulogy to your lost ones.

What about you? You have some literary orphans out there that never grew up?

[Image via Pixabay.]

12 comments on “The lost ones …

  1. 1WriteWay
    January 31, 2018

    Right now, all my WIPs feel like literary orphans 😉 The problem for me is shutting up my own literary critic who, at my first weak moment, my first fuzzy sense of self-doubt, starts screaming about how “pedestrian” the story line is; how trivial the plot is (or isn’t if my critic doesn’t think there’s even a plot); how boring the characters are. Makes it hard to think 😉

    • curtisbausse
      January 31, 2018

      Lots of orphans, yes. Most are still alive – pathetic, hungry creatures seeking sustenance that will probably never come. The ones that grew are because I managed to face down the inner critic.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 31, 2018

        It sounds like a veal-calf farm over there! 😐

    • kingmidget
      January 31, 2018

      Sounds like my own experience for the last couple of years. The internal critic is the loudest voice these days.

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 31, 2018

        Seems to be the common thread, that inner critic. Can someone please shut that guy up?!

      • kingmidget
        January 31, 2018

        Haven’t found a muzzle big enough.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2018

      Yeah, that inner critic can really getcha down. I keep mine distracted by focusing his attention on other people … 😉

      • 1WriteWay
        January 31, 2018

        Ha ha … I appreciate hearing from your other readers on this. I think it is my biggest problem, and not just with writing but other creative endeavors. The only pursuit I have where my inner critic doesn’t rule: knitting. Sigh.

  2. Priscilla
    January 31, 2018

    I have orphans, but I’m trying not to orphan any more MS’s. I keep Jodi Picoult’s quote above my desk. “You can’t edit a blank page.” I learned from my last (terrible) novel attempt that getting all the way through even a bad MS is a better learning experience for me than getting part way through and abandoning it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2018

      I think that’s true. You can work with a completed MS. At least you know how things turn out!

  3. Sha'Tara
    January 31, 2018

    You have some literary orphans out there that never grew up?

    A couple now, but they weren’t meant to grow up, just lab rat experimental, so neither they nor I mind. The thing about hard drives is wonderful: I can go over them once in a while when sorting files, re-read then check my mind to see if there’s more to the story. Like digging in the freezer. Nothing new? OK, see you around; back to whatever is actually on the stove cooking.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2018

      That’s the way to think of our lab rats, all right. And you never know when one will mutate on you and merit further study. 😉

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This entry was posted on January 31, 2018 by in Writing and tagged , , .
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