Saturday, July 01, 2006

Last Dance

The past month I've been hashing out a proposal with my agent, and although I gave it my best shot twice, it didn't work for her or me. It kept bugging me, and after I asked her to read it we talked and worked out what was wrong with it. The flaws are such that I have to scrap the proposal altogether and start over from scratch.

This doesn't happen very often to me, but when it does I struggle to let go as much as any writer out there. Here's one of the reasons why in this case:

Julian is an attractive man. Not really handsome, but not the type of guy you can eye-skim and forget. He brings this presence with him whenever he walks into a room, like a captain standing on the deck of a ship far out to sea; steely of eye and spine, ready to make decisions that cause armies to retreat and governments to collapse. He didn’t look at you; he evaluated your threat potential. That kind of thing.

I had fun getting to know Julian for this proposal. He wasn't like any male character I've written so far, and he came out beautifully on the page. Writing him was like dancing with him -- close, smooth, fun. Bit of a thrill in several places because he is so different for me. But now Julian has to go back into the filing cabinet, in the (thankfully) small section where I put failed proposals.

Am I done with this proposal? Yep. Am I done with Julian? Maybe not. That's the great thing about ideas, and characters, and concepts. Even when they're flawed, I can always go back to the best of them, turn them around in my head, and try something different. Maybe next time I dance with Julian, he'll end up in print. Doing it like this -- saving him for another time versus deleting him -- also helps me move on, oddly enough.

What helps you disconnect from a flawed character, idea or proposal?

14 comments:

  1. The third Hal book was originally a bit of a political send-up, but the dry, elderly politicians weren't that attractive as central characters. Instead, I took a female lieutenant who only had a bit part in the original and turned her into the focus. While rewriting her, the plot kept changing until I ended up with quite a different book. The President and his advisor are still there, but they have the bit parts now.

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  2. When the story doesn't have the legs to fill out a three hundred page book. I'll file the characters away for future reference, but if the story sucked, I'll set that aside too, and let it stew. Most often, the major flaw will become apparent and I'll restructure everything. (Of course, as you know, I'm a non-plotter so I'm inviting disaster.)

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  3. I've killed two novels in the past year. Amazingly, when I came up with a fictional city to set stories in, I found homes for the characters and plotlines. Place in blender, hit frappe, let simmer for a while.

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  4. Glad you're saving Julian.
    It is in the eyes, the gaze, I think.

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  5. Well, at this point, since they're all flawed, I'd have to quit altogether. I'm not ready to do that, so I keep looking for ways to improve.

    Your approach is the most sensible. Timing is a critical factor, and sometimes holding something for later makes a lot of sense.

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  6. I have an abandoned Fantasy world and some SciFi-novel chapters in my files. I kept them but I don't think I'll write novel length stuff other than Historical Fiction, and I have enough plotbunnies for that. Though I sometimes write a short story in other genres.

    I don't have abandones characters, though (except a few that go with the abandoned worlds and can't be transfered into hist fic), somehow they either die for good or they find a home soon.

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  7. Though now I think about it, the SciFi world is more about characters than world. There's gruff, outspoken, down to earth Captain Gerd Harras always in search for coffee on worlds where they don't know how to brew a good one, who made some enemies in the wrong circles and is sent off on a frigate (yes, my starship classes follow the 19th century British marine) called Sutherland to planets of the Confederation that look like brewing trouble. At his side, a motley crew of humans and not so humans. Another character that stood out was the Ricorian swordfighter Arcos Evran, young, fair and noble, who comes from a planet with a still feudal structure and is now thrown into the world of a spaceship. And don't ask me how humans got to Ricor. :)

    Those two sorta refues to leave my brain once and for all.

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  8. It is very difficult for me to disconnect, because I'm very stubborn.

    What I've been doing lately is use a different font for different WIPs, and then when I decide that it's over, I just force myself not to open that file and do something else.

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  9. Usually I can salvage the character~I just trash the story. Soemtimes I save the file, but when it's really screwed up and I can't stop obsessing... i trash it altogether.

    Then I take a few weeks ago and try to go back to it. If I still can't, I just force myself to move onto something else for the time being.

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  10. It takes time and distance. I don't let go of ideas quickly, especially if something really sparked inside of me. Good luck with your next proposal. :)

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  11. I have SO many ideas that I don't mind too much because it means sometihng else that's been clamoring for attention can get some. :-) I've entirely abandoned my oldest story ideas simply because they aren't that good. I have plenty of better ones waiting for a chance!

    I have something like 130 cataloged story ideas. And those are just the ones I like enough to write down.

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  12. 130 story ideas?

    Yikes, and there I thought I had a plotbunny breeding farm. ;)

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  13. I keep a file of ideas, freewrites, etc. on my hard drive. I pull stuff out of it every so often and play with it. Sometimes I get ideas that work and I run with them. Other times they go back into the file to be pulled out at another time. Sometimes the process of pulling out stuff gets me thinking and combining things from different files sparks something that works. Sometimes I think time lets my subconscious fill in what was missing in the original idea. :)

    Linda

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  14. When you find out how to disconnectm tell us, because I need to kow. 2 characters I scrapped are screaming at me lately.

    Evaluating you as threat potential? OMG, I love him already. He needs a book. I'll light a fire and burn some bat whiskers in hopes that he poofs to the page.

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