Last night I decided to down tools on the current WIP nearly halfway into the story and about a quarter into the actual word count. (Because I tend to skip bits if they’re awkward/simple and then back-fill later.) This 1:1 ratio of done to skipped is a little higher than usual, and the fact I’ve been working on this for (allowing for Christmas, family death plague, et al.) a month or two and I’m only this far in, count-wise, shows how slow the going’s been for a while.
But why scrub it? For the edification of those who’ve wondered such to me on Twitter, here’s an insight into how it works/I work.
Partly I’m dropping it because it stopped being fun to write weeks ago. That’s good enough reason by itself. Partly, though, because the problems with it, the ones that have made it distinctly unfun, are pretty fundamental and I’m not sure how to resolve them without writing another story anyway. I’m quite used to getting partway into a book and then realising that my plan/direction is badly wrong. It happened with Project 1 (YA one, finished in November), it’s happened in the past. You realise, you adjust, you overcome and then you breeze on knowing that you’ve saved yourself one redraft at the end. Basically.
Last night I made a list of the good and bad from what I’ve got so far.
The intro to Jack [MC 1] is good. [Initial elder supporting character] is good too.
Arrival into [the town where Part 1 of the story happens].
[Minor supporting character met in town].
Initial meet with Anya [MC 2] and their banter both here and in final escape.
Some of the conceptual ideas.
Storyline-wise, I’m now ~50% of the way through the much longer Part 2 section, and aside from one (minor setting location) conceptual thing there is nothing good in it. Part 1 is obviously quite a bit stronger, though it’s worth noting that nothing especially germane to the running story in that section features in the list.
Not a great sign.
There’s no interesting moral question for the two main characters (more, in fact, for the Nazi sideline [which I started writing on impulse while stuck; the main story involves tracking A Thing that unbeknownst to anyone was recovered by an Ahnenerbe expedition in the 30s, so I decided to run with some f/b chapters to that expedition and the two men guiding it]).
We sort of have two stories here - one in which an ass-kicking master of languages goes and kicks ass around the world, and one which is a secret world peer-behind-the-curtain thing which should leave a character feeling a little out of their depth and a little awed by it all, not to mention under constant threat, which that ass-kicker character doesn’t by dint of being ass-kicky.
There’s no emotional investment by the characters in what they’re doing, so none for the reader, or writer. They do stuff largely because the bad guys are bad guys.
There’s no conflict in what the character is doing. No sense of having to juggle (at least) two things at once, like if you’re trying to find the MacGuffin while also figuring out a way to free your brother from the Mob. That sort of thing.
There’s no specific motive for the bad guys, no reason for them to (a) get anything quickly or (b) to get it at all beyond “having all the cool toys”. There’s also no reason for them to be after either main character beyond stopping them from interfering.
Basically, the whole story has as much depth and interest as a puddle of watery shit.
I can see ways to fix some of these, but only by completely changing the story and characters. I can do Mr Ass-Kick Kicks Ass by having a very early reveal of all the mysterious crap and then having him punch Nazi zombies for 300 pages. That’s all fine and fun, sure.
I can do There Is A World Hidden Behind The One You Know and a creeping run of mystery and conspiracy, but not with a Mr Ass-Kick main character and not with 90% of the going-places-to-do-stuff as currently exists. That’s also all fine and fun.
The first has more action, and if I forget mystery I can throw in some broader drag-by-the-gut motivational core to it and rock on. The second has a lot less and more horror, and more conflicted and vulnerable characters slot nicely into it. Great. I still have no fix for the motivations of anyone else, nor the complications needed to give depth, but I could come up with such appropriate to each.
Both of them, though, are different books. Wholly new, start-from-zero books. And wholly different to the original pitch to my agents that the go-ahead was given on. This last might seem a bit strange - you write what you want, no? - but having the career record I do I’d like to give them something they can shop around with reasonable confidence. (Explanation for the actual process behind this, and the reasons for it, would be a post in itself.)
So. Either way we’d be looking at a new book. I’m going to let it linger for a while, see if I can come up with some miraculous way of fixing things without changing wholesale, and do some other stuff - reopen the 3/4-finished MURDER PARK, brush off the plans file, start throwing a couple of things together - that I actually want to do in the meantime.