Monday, November 2, 2009

My Two Mistresses

In the recent Entertainment Weekly, there is an article about Stephen King's new novel, Under the Dome. While I'm not a fanatic about Stephen King's novels, and I didn't read the extensive excerpt from the book that is included with the article, I did find the interview with him fascinating.

This book, which runs more than 1,000 pages, was started 33 years ago. He wrote 75 pages before abandoning it. 3 years later he picked it back up and wrote another 450 pages before abandoning it again.

Did you catch that? 450 pages!!  That's more than my entire last book by about 130 pages. It's probably more than your last book, if you're a writer. And that's what he wrote before he decided not to finish it!

But he did eventually pick it back up and finish it. 33 years later.

And for some reason, I really needed to hear that this is okay to do.

You see, I have two books begun - and not just a first or second chapter done, but a fair ways into them begun - and I've set them aside, both for different reasons. The first I think is really a great book. I want to write it. I think it will be an awesome book once it's done. It's unique, it has great characters, and it has the potential to be really powerful. I liked writing it. But 50 pages in, it felt all wrong for right now. It didn't fit with the book that is being published, and if I'm going to build a readership, it's not the right one to follow Some Kind of Normal. I think it might seriously confuse people about me as an author.

And so I put that one aside for the time being.

The second one I love for really personal reasons. I have an outline for it: I know exactly where it's going.  I have a passion for it. I can sit and write and write and write on it. It fits with my "branding." But 50 pages in I realized it's not that interesting as it stands now. Deeply personal for me, but for the reader? Maybe not so much. At some point I stopped typing long enough to realize, I'm writing this book for me.

That's an important lesson to learn, I think. To be able to tell the difference between the stories we need to tell for ourselves, and the stories readers will want to read.

And so, reluctantly, I put that one down as well.

I love love love my new book. But there is a part of me that feels like I'm cheating on these others. I'm keeping them on the side, as if I can't let them go, and yet not giving them the attention they deserve. And I'm ashamed to admit I have these stories I just didn't finish. Not because I couldn't finish them, or because I realized they were bad stories, but just because my gut told me the timing was wrong.

And so today I fell in love just a little with Stephen King for admitting that he, too, keeps mistress books.

I love having a little validation that it's okay to start something and then put it aside. And in the end, it doesn't matter that I'm embarrassed now to say I didn't finish something. What matters is being able to say I chose the right one for the right time, and I didn't stick to something just because I felt like I would be a failure if I didn't.

So what about you? Do you have stories tucked away that you plan on revisiting someday?


  1. I have two projects in the wings, but they're not in the genre that I want a career in, so they're definitely in the wings.

  2. The story of The Dome is really interesting. Most of us spend our lives on aborted projects. I decided last night that I was going to join the NaNoWriMo challenge and do the 50,000 words in 30 days. Let's see if I can do it.

  3. Heidi - I feel the pain!

    Patti - that genre thing really stinks sometimes! For a while it didn't matter, but when you are really setting out to make a career of it, it does.

    Christy - Good luck! Are you writing non-fiction or fiction this time around?

  4. I know what you mean about feeling like we're cheating on stories. I feel that way often. I have a bunch of abandoned stories and I hope I can someday return to them.

  5. I have so many projects backstage, and the ideas don't leave me alone. I get kind of angry, in fact, when a new idea presents itself because I feel like it needs to get into the back of the line and JUST WAIT. You are not alone.

  6. Having one or two under the bed or loaded into the hopper are his m.o.'s from way back, or so he says in his writing book. We could pick a worse example. For everyone who rags on his writing, the guy comes up with a ton of stories.

    I currently have about 4 going-- 3 are related (trilogy). Sick!

  7. Yes, yes, Heidi. I have three mistresses that are very young, and one that is well seasoned, but not well written. LOL But I love it, personally, and one day think I will spruce it up...hopefully not 33 years later, though. :)

  8. We joked about this recently, when you suggested that I write a book using the Tarot.

    My file cabinet is packed with rough drafts (mostly written during school breaks) and promising ideas waiting to be fleshed out. I'll have to seriously increase my output if I ever hope to finish them all.