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This one time at Writer's Camp…

Know When To Fold ’em

One of the best things about being a writer is having a good enough friend (or friends) who will listen to you while you throw the craziest stuff at them for your book.

Take Peggey the Editor for example. If I have an idea and I think it’s brilliant (because I think all my ideas are brilliant), I throw them at her. She’ll dissect them and let me know just how badly they suck (or have potential). I’ll take back the non-sucky bits, mutter darkly under my breath about her parentage and whatnot, and get back to work on the non-sucky bits. Then I’ll throw it back to her and she’ll go over things and tell me what is starting to no longer resemble a steaming pile of cow chips. I’ll start to question both her parentage and sanity while taking it back and trying all over again. Some people call those who throw themselves into the literary line of fire “sounding boards”. I call them brave.

The downside is that sometimes, no matter what you do, there is not a single non-sucky part of the idea. You try and try to get that baby to resemble something nice and not like something which got stuck in the garbage disposal. But you can’t give it up and you cling to it as though it were your life support. Heck, it may very well be. But in the end, you just gotta know when to fold ’em and walk away.

Have you ever had that singular moment when you realized that the idea and story just isn’t going to work?

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3 responses to “Know When To Fold ’em

  1. Barb Caffrey August 30, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Yes. I’ve had stories I get halfway into and stop.

    On the other hand, I’ve been able to re-start stories that have been stalled out a year or more, in some cases _many_ times — sometimes I think it’s more a matter of how much you believe in yourself rather than anything else, because most of our ideas are good enough in and of themselves that if we can follow through on them, they’ll be fine. (I can’t say they’ll all sell, for sure. The markets are difficult at the best of times, which these _aren’t_, mostly for economic reasons.)

    I’ve not ever thrown an idea to someone else and asked them to critique it, but I have asked — not once, but _many_ times — in the first page or so of a story if it makes any sense to anyone but me. If it doesn’t, I’m going to figure out more of the concept before I go on.

    Anyway, the story that I don’t think I can salvage is something to do with deja vu and a storm. The gal’s boss is gay but likes her very much as a friend, and only these two people ended up at work — she has all sorts of issues going on, and doesn’t trust men at all, not even a gay man who’s unlikely to hurt her romantically. When she allows her boss to take her home — btw, she lives in a horrible neighborhood — she hears a guardian angel telling her to trust him, that maybe it’s time to set aside her fears.

    Now, all of that is well and good, but where is the external conflict coming from? That’s all _internal_. And it’s hard to write a salable story off of entirely _internal_ conflict.

    If I ever figure out an external source — figure out whether or not the ex-boyfriend is coming back into the picture, and whether or not he’s violent or “only” verbally abusive — then I’ll try to re-start that story, too. I liked the characters. (That’s what’s so hard about these stories that get stalled out. There’s usually _something_ to like about ’em!)

    • warpcordova August 31, 2010 at 2:41 PM

      Well, the reason I have sounding boards is also because Peggey the Editor has a wider range of reading material than I do, not to mention a better grasp of English. If I have her help me flesh out an idea, she’ll let me know if it’s too close to someone else’s novel.

      It’s handy, not having to worry about readers saying “This guy stole a John Ringo idea!”…

  2. Barb Caffrey September 1, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    Well, that’s a good thing, then, to have someone who can help you in that way. There’s definitely nothing bad about bouncing ideas off trusted friends. I just think you need to trust yourself, too; from what I’ve seen, you’ve got plenty of imagination and the will enough to use it. 🙂

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