I haven’t talked much about the progress I’ve made on my writing during the past month because it’s been a struggle. I love my current project’s characters; I can hear their voices and I know their personalities. But what I can’t seem to see is their actual story. Yes, I know the general plot points, the details of the setting, the characters’ goals and motivations, and the solutions and final ending, but how all of these things interlace continues to escape me. I can’t find the tone this project should take, whether light or dark, humorous or tragic, horror or supernatural fantasy, or some strange mixture of all these things. And while this issue might not bother some writers, I find it impacts how my characters interact with the setting and to each other. So although I know my characters, I find myself unable to keep them in character. I’m not one to advocate giving up on a project partway through completion, but if I’m struggling just to make progress on a first draft, then maybe it’s time to put this story down and find another project.
While on vacation this past week, I found myself experiencing a change in perspective along with my change in physical setting. And this new perspective has me considering a return to an old project that I worked and reworked for years. This old project comes in the form of my first completed novel manuscript that went through several rounds of editing. I never queried it. Why? Because I found myself overly-attached to it and unable to perfect it during rewrites. I received conflicting reviews from fellow writers on the first few pages, resulting in a great deal of frustration on my part. I know I can’t please everyone with my writing, but every time I attempted to correct one “problem,” a new one seemed to take its place. I became so frustrated by this that I never looked for beta readers for the manuscript and gave up editing it altogether.
Now however, I find myself wanting to return to that project. I’m hoping that I’ve become distanced enough from it to look at the story more objectively. I know it still needs work; there are several changes I wanted to make that were left unfinished those several years ago when I last visited it. But again, I also know that I can’t please everyone when it comes to my writing. I’m hoping that this time around I can find some quality feedback that will point me in the right direction rather than frustrating me with opposing reviews. And I’m also looking forward to finding beta readers who can give me feedback on the story itself and not just the quality of my writing.
Once this finished manuscript is on its way to in depth review, I then plan to start working on a companion story that I’ve wanted to write for several years now. I’m not sure if it will spark the interest of an agent in today’s market of diversity-driven and women-empowering stories, but I want to give it a try. (The plot line is reminiscent of medieval Europe unicorn folklore and traditional high fantasy.) Once it’s written, maybe I can find the motivation to return to the project I’m shelving for now and have more success in its progress. Or maybe it just isn’t meant to be written.
No matter where you are in your creative process, I want you to know that it is okay to take a break, move on, return to an old project, or reimagine your current work. There is nothing wrong with changing perspectives; in fact, it can help make you a better creator. No project you put down needs to remain shelved forever. If your inspiration is leading you in another direction, it’s alright to follow. Sometimes stepping away from a project that isn’t working right now is the only way to ensure it works out in the future.