It’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.
This month’s question is:
How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?
As I’ve said many a time, though my dream is to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and my secondary dream is to win the Sydney Taylor Book Award, what I want most of all is immortality through my writing. I want to be remembered as a writer for all time, like Dante and Shakespeare, not someone who’s only praised and known about for a little while before being consigned to the bargain bin.
I really, really struggled with the story I wrote for the IWSG contest. My first idea was quickly abandoned, a story entitled “Illuminated Summer.” It was to be set in Fiesole, Italy, during the summer of 1478, one of the deadliest outbreaks of the Black Death’s second wind. My problem was that I only had some general ideas about what to fill the story with, as much as I pulled together mentally.
Since I liked the characters I crafted in my head so much, though, I decided to save them for a full-length book. Maybe it was a mistake to abandon this story before I even finished one page, but it’s too late now to change that decision.
Then I moved to the idea I’d had originally, using my secondary characters Virgil Rein and Liliána Buchsbaum from my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and showing the genesis of their romantic relationship in Sweden after the war. It was called “Traces of an Ancient Flame” (a line from The Aeneid and later used in The Divine Comedy in homage). But almost the entire time I was working on it, it just wasn’t clicking.
It was a huge struggle to get over the minimum 5K mark, and that contained a lot of garbage I would’ve edited out in the final draft. At no time besides the opening pages, set in an antiquarian bookstore, did I feel excited about this project; on the contrary, I didn’t want to work on it, and getting as many words as I did was like pulling hens’ teeth.
I had more and more of a sinking feeling that this wasn’t my strongest effort, and that romance didn’t feature prominently enough. The story didn’t want to be primarily a romance, despite those elements being there. It also felt too unfocused and not paced well, with more of an episodic structure instead of a real plot.
I also feel like, should I write a full book about these characters, their romance ought to have started soon after liberation, not only in early December 1947.
I finally decided to scratch that hot mess a day before the deadline, and went back to my material of Cinnimin meeting Levon in 1942 and reworked it into a standalone story exclusively in Cinni’s POV. Yes, I cut it really close, but my heart was only in the final of the three stories. Had I continued forcing the second story that didn’t want to be written, and felt all wrong most of the time, I wouldn’t have been submitting my best work or something I was proud of.
In other news, I finally renamed my YouTube channel so people can more easily pronounce and remember it. I plan to start adding regular content, including vlogs about writing. It might help with improving my confidence, though I’m afraid I’ll always have the nasal twang of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Have you ever abandoned a project partway through because it just wasn’t working or didn’t represent what you’re capable of?