Saturday, July 02, 2011
The Great White Whale: Going Back to an Old Writing Project
But, at the same time, I had a plan for my next writing project.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: an old story lingers in the back of your head. You've maybe written a page or two of it, often the same few pages several times in different reiterations but were never satisfied with the result. Maybe you've actually written a big hunk of the manuscript but aren't happy with how it feels to you. Yet you keep returning to this story over and over, trying, striving to make it workable.
It's the Great White Whale story.
I have one. Every now and then I return to the computer file with fresh heart and new hopes. Every time, I leave it unsatisfied. Perhaps because this story is more ambitious than others I have written. Perhaps its themes are too complicated or its characters too complex. Whatever it is, it stops me in my tracks every time. Sometimes I get a page in. Sometimes several chapters. Then I stop. Often for a very long time -- over a year.
But I keep coming back. It's like a bad romance. Is he good for me? Is he going to ruin my life? All I know is that I'm obsessed and I need my fix, good or bad.
My "Whale" is a non-romance novel for which I got the idea over a decade ago from a news story. I wrote pieces of it for the better part of that decade. During that time, I took more than a dozen hiatuses, often as long as a year. I'm still writing it and it's still not even halfway completed. It is agonizing work.
So why do I keep writing my "Whale"? Because, in the end, I think it's a story that needs to be told. And I've been chosen by the powers that be to write it. So I plug away. I take breaks. I pull my hair out. It grows back. At least, it always grows back.
So, if you have a project that keeps calling out to you, return to it and see if the spark is still there. It may be a doomed romance or it may be a case of 'my boyfriend's back'. Chances are, if you started that story years ago and you still haven't seen anyone else publishing something remarkably similar, it may just be worthwhile to take a second look and try again.
Photo courtesy of winnond at freedigitalphotos.net