At what point does one throw in the towel? To admit defeat and move on? To simply quit?

As of this writing, I have 49000+ words written on my novel Charlotte. This isn’t my first attempt at a novel, but it is my most successful. And it is a total failure. Complete rubbish.

Well maybe not complete rubbish. I still like the basic premise, and Charlotte herself is mildly interesting. I also have a few secondary characters that are just starting to become more interesting. I have hints of a backstory for my heroine and a constant turmoil that she must endure as she simply seeks for a normal life. But the story so far simply lacks a plot. It is a day in the life sort of story told episodically through diary entries.

I like it, my wife likes it, my friends kind of like it … but it’s horrible. Just horrible. None of us would finish the book if we found it lying on the seat next to us on the train one day. Not unless we had a macabre desire for nightmares before bedtime. Currently I can’t even back that one up. In all honesty the reader would more likely drift off to Slumberland due to boredom. We would all wonder how it was that we came to be on a train however, as none of use live anywhere that train travel is readily available, but I digress.

My lead has no major flaws other than the inability to face her past. She’s only mildly proactive. Mostly she goes out looking for work each day and tries not to eat people. Kind of interesting, but not really. Right now my half developed secondary characters are more interesting: a roguish young man who seems rebellious but who is loved by the tenement children because he cares for them; a foreigner shopkeeper who has hunted vampires, was almost burned at the stake, and who is currently a mercenary spy; a manservant with a grinding voice who does vile work for monsters, yet gives his victims honest advice in what few words he speaks.  The most interesting thing my heroine has done is set her own compound fracture. Ouch, but yeah … that’s it. Oh and my villain? Meh! Right now he is a vague outline of a man who wields a whip while wearing a beaver top hat and has a thuggish toady to do his underhanded bidding. And maybe he had an affair with the heroine’s mother … and maybe he’s her biological father. Other than that though … nothing!

So I’ve determined that I have to restart. It is inevitable. I need to make an actual plot, and I have an idea. I will make my heroine more flawed and start before she becomes a monster. She will have a purpose but no ability to follow through. Then she’ll take a “job” that will kill her and begin the process of making her a monster. She’ll wake from her death and fight that transformation. At this point she will have power, power to follow through on her purpose, but she will find that she doesn’t have the skill to use the power. Enter the mentor who will guide her and become like family until his inevitable death. There, on the cusp of accomplishing her purpose, my heroine will now be cast down once more. Her descent will lead her to fully become the monster, but just before she does the one thing that will ensure her monstrous transformation, she pulls back from the brink with help from her friends. Her purpose largely fulfilled, she reasserts herself to a new purpose, one that will be far lasting and potentially redeeming (possibly ensuring future stories / serialization).

The above plot is significantly different than my current rough draft. There are scenes I can keep from my current work, but I feel like I should complete my current work before restarting. On the other hand I have a very difficult time telling myself to write something I know is going to be completely removed from the next draft. So how do I progress?

Options before me:

  1. Continue writing my current rough draft and just plow through with my original idea. I might be able to save something somewhere.
  2. Stop immediately, create a structured draft of the new story, and start again.
  3. Combine the two – sort of. Continue with the current rough draft but write as if I’m halfway through already.
  4. Delete everything. Get rid of it all, pull the hard drives and drill holes through them then pass the platters through some industrial shredder, delete all of my social media accounts, take online hypnosis classes and hypnotize my friends and family into forgetting I ever thought about writing, and then silently weep at night when no one is around until the pain goes away.

Options 1-3 are all pretty close in my mind, but currently 4 has the lead.

Does anyone that’s ever done this before have any advice?


© 2016, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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