This morning I made the decision to throw a novel in the bin.
The proverbial bin, since it’s a digital file – but that doesn’t make the loss of 107,000 words and the death of an idea any easier to bear.
So now that I’ve fronted the topic, let’s talk about how it happened – because what’s the point in making a statement like that if I don’t strip back the layers, right?
About a year and a half ago, I started writing book three of the Kin Chronicles. Now, that doesn’t seem terribly long ago, but I’d like to put that further into perspective by mentioning that the original concept for book three was put into place when I first conceived the series – well over ten years ago.
Yep. Over a decade ago, I mapped out which characters would end up with whom, the basic plot points of several of the books, and the general direction in which the series would progress. Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I wrote Aislinn’s Shadow and Tobias’ Spark; everything was fine since I was setting the series up, but when I moved into book three… the wellspring of my inspiration ran dry.
After 40,000 words I had to admit it wasn’t working. The characters didn’t click, the plot was wonky. I set it aside and started again. Second time around, same characters, different attitudes, different sequence of events. I got to 60,000 words this time, and… Still wonky. Still no chemistry. Still not working.
You’d think at this point I would realise what was happening – but no. Instead, I told myself I just needed a break, threw myself into The Heart of a Shadow and loved every minute of it. There was something about that book that just flowed, and it leapt onto the page at a speed which even astonished me. When it was done, I was full of enthusiasm and inspiration but when I thought of returning to the Kin Chronicles and starting book three *again,* that excitement turned to dread.
I did, at this point, toy with the idea of changing things up but in the end, I told myself it was just because I’d had a rough go the first couple of times and that this time, I would get it right. I pushed and smooshed and forced my characters to work together for 107,000 words, struggling for every single one – which brings us to last week.
I sat down to watch a video interview with an author I very much admire. During the interview, she talked about a book in which she had planned for two characters to work together, and got 70,000 words into the book only to realise there was zero chemistry between those two characters and the book just wasn’t working. Despite the time lost, she had to come to terms with the idea that the characters weren’t meant to be together, put the book aside and write something else entirely.
This was… a flick to the raw. I knew as soon as I finished watching the video what it meant; what I knew deep down and had probably known from the beginning. It’s hard, though, to look at all that time and effort and say, ‘this is not what I want.’
The alternative, however, is to push the proverbial uphill and publish a book I’m not happy with – and to me, that’s much worse.
Naturally, because the idea of drop-kicking a book I’d invested so much in (over 200,000 words, all told) made me feel vulnerable, I chose to ignore the problem for a few days – but my subconscious was not content to let me rest. An author friend of mine (I see you, Cassie) recommended a craft book to me that, in the opening chapters, talked about following an idea because it spoke to you, about recognising when an idea is no longer serving you, and then letting that idea go with grace.
Hmmm. Now, because things come in threes and I clearly needed the reinforcement, I then went on to watch another video interview with a different author I admire (I may or may not have been procrastinating by this point) and she said “I only write where my inspiration takes me, because otherwise my heart isn’t in it, and it’s just… it just won’t be what I want it to be.”
Okay. I get it. I get it.
So now we’re at this morning, where I made the decision (after mourning with Cassie, Bron and Mum about it) to throw my novel in the metaphorical bin. I know it’s the right call for the series long term, even if it hurts to let go of all that effort – but the characters? They’re so relieved. SO RELIEVED. Because there wasn’t any chemistry, and the plot was wonky, and that idea from over a decade ago no longer fit the people they had become.
What happens next? I’m not sure. I’m still feeling a little vulnerable and a lot raw, but I’m going to keep on with my current projects and then I’m going to let my inspiration take me where it wills. This is by no means the end of Kin Chronicles as a series, but I think it does mean scrapping all my old planning and letting the characters take me where they need to go. For that to happen, they (and I) are going to need a little time and space to think about it, forgive each other and move forward – something essential for everyone concerned.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes right now, and tumbling this weight off my shoulders has made me feel so much lighter. I needed the reminder, I think, to remain curious, to dig deep, and above all to listen to my instincts the first time around instead of persevering with something that clearly isn’t working.
Here’s to the next adventure – right after some conciliatory cocktails.