Do It Better

This is not the easiest post to write.

I’ve given up on my alien invasion novel.  You know, the one I’ve referred to again and again?  Yeah, that one.  Before I continue, understand that this decision was not made lightly.  I got the idea for a series (this novel was to be the first installment) in July of 2009 and began writing it three months later.  So to say that I’m putting down nearly three years of work is never something I do on a whim.

My novel changed a lot in the last three years, and so did the concept of the series to follow.  Not all of those changes have been things that I wanted to do, but felt compelled to do.  Certain issues of character took the plot of the greater whole in completely different directions.  The logistics of other plot points crumbled apart.  Ultimately, I’ve come to the decision that writing a series was not written into my life’s script.  A stand-alone book, I think I can do, and I’ve got ideas aplenty.  But dedicating so much time to a series of an undetermined length, something that grew beyond my control like Frankenstein’s monster, that is something that truly goes against the grain of my character.

Now, I’m not going to make up excuses for myself, and I’m not going to waste your time with the minute details of all the problems I’ve come up against in the process.  What I will say, especially to the writers among my audience, is this: if you have a project that falls apart, DO NOT consider it time misspent.  It is a massive learning experience, that’s what a dead project is.  I’ve spent a couple of years working on this novel, but it wasn’t spent sitting on my ass doing nothing.  I’ve learned a lot about my writing style, my voice, my revision techniques.  I’ve picked up certain skills and habits that I will take with me as I move on to writing the next story, and you should too with whatever it is you’re working on.

Yes, in the short term, it does suck, particularly when you look at all your drafts collected, all the paper and ink used and the long hours that went into it all.  You look at that physical manifestation and think that you’ve made some pretty big mistakes somewhere along the road.

But if I’m not able to encourage you to learn from your experiences, then maybe a more established name can.  Alan Moore once said, “How good am I as a writer compared to these guys that I like reading?  And you think, ‘Actually, I’m rubbish,’ and so you try to make yourself a little bit better.  And, if you’re honest with yourself, not over-critical — there’s no point in looking everything you do and saying that’s rubbish and tearing it up — but if you can at least be honest and say, ‘Yeah, this has got some bits in it that are good.  I could have done better with these bits.  This is not as good as so-and-so who I admire would have done it.  Next time, this is going to be better.’  And you just try to make each thing you do a little bit smarter, a little bit more sophisticated than the thing you did before.  Eventually, people will notice.”

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