Abandoning a Story

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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Back in February, I started writing a story for Tomorrow News Network called “A Pound of Flesh.”  In it, a telepath would attempt to communicate with a species of intelligent bacteria native to the planet Mars.  But much like a bacterial infection, the story kept growing.  It got complicated.  It was about telepaths, intelligent bacteria, prisons, war, religious cults, and the food industry.  It had some political commentary as well.  The story became so complicated that I had to stop.

I’m more of an intuitive writer.  I like to feel my way through a story rather than plan the whole thing out in advance, but in this case, with a story giving me this much trouble, I had to do things differently.  I wrote an outline and discovered that the story had at least nine different plot threads.  Nine!  All of them essential to the story I wanted to tell.  It would be difficult to deal with nine plot threads in a novel.  In a short story, it’s almost impossible.

So after a few days of soul searching and some time away from my writing, I made the decision to abandon the story.  I’ve already done eleven short stories for this series, so I took some comfort in knowing that I got so far without encountering a problem like this.

The bad news is that I’m now two months behind schedule, and most of the work I did for “A Pound of Flesh” is unusable.  The good news is that the new story, entitled “Mother Mars,” is turning out really well.  I’m excited about writing it, and I’m even more excited for you to read it when it comes out sometime in the next two weeks.  It has only two main plot threads: one about the human colonization of Mars a few centuries from now and another about the ancient Martians living several millennia in the past.

But abandoning a story was a hard decision.  I liked “A Pound of Flesh.”  The scenes with the intelligent bacteria were extremely creepy and fun to write.  But as a writer, I have to be prepared to give up on a concept that isn’t working.

So how about you?  Have you ever had to give up on a writing project (or other kind of project) even though you really liked it?

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14 thoughts on “Abandoning a Story

  1. I’ve had to abandon a few, like yourself mostly because my ambition exceeded my ability.
    I don’t suppose there’s any chance of making a novel out of it? At worst, you should be able to take 2 or 3 of the best/most compatible storylines, and weave them into something tighter.

    • That’s something I intend to do. Parts of “A Pound of Flesh” are going to be included in future Tomorrow News Network stories. Could the story become a novel? That’s not on my mind right now, but it’s certainly possible. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  2. I have abandoned a few and put others on hold. I am more than 6 months behind with my second book because I had other writing commitments [the kind that pay the bills:)]
    Good luck with the new stories!!

  3. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. No matter how great that story may sound in your head, it just isn’t working out right on paper. Something isn’t quite clicking. Still, just because you’ve abandoned the story doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up some other time.

  4. Technical difficulties on Wednesday prevented me from making it over here, and am playing catch-up.

    In my opinion, nothing should ever be completely abandoned. Save it to look at later. Borrow elements from it. Use good lines. Stuff like that.

    I was working hard on a 20K story, and in all my research (and I spent much time researching and outlining) I kept running into obstacles. Had a good direction going, it had been done in another story. This happened a few times. I was trying to create a new myth, a new world, a new legend. Hard to do.

    But what it did allow for was use of elements of my research for another work and a better understanding of archetypal personality types.

    I may put things on the backburner, but never completely abandon anything. Good post, James!

  5. Like you, I write intuitively. And yes, I had to abandon a story a couple years back. Two characters started taking it over and its not what I wanted to happen.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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