When should I decide to discard the WIP that consumed so much time and energy, that kept me awake and woke me up, and that gave me a humongous carbon footprint? The hours I invested in imaginary people and settings I could have spent socializing, doing volunteer work, or improving my professional skills with continuing education courses.
Do I place a paper copy of the story in a bottom drawer or trust in an electronic device and leave a copy on my Passport, an external hard drive? Sometimes pieces of characters, events, and dialogue can be revitalized and transformed in a new work.
What is making me put my WIP to death or at the very least into a coma—200 rejections, 300 rejections? How soon before I read a story about a writer whose career took off after her 304th rejection? Am I no longer interested in the characters and plot? Perhaps I don’t believe the story deserves more time and effort.
I can tell myself I learn from any writing I labor over. I might have even learned what I was doing wrong. Whatever I tell myself, I still have to say goodbye to hours of enthusiastic creativity, soul-searching, and stretching the mind.
Before progressing too far into my present project, I reread Robert McKee’s Story. While reading the first half of the book, I was inspired. During my reading of the second half, I plunged into despair, certain I could never create a worthwhile story.
I plan to outline with scenes—40 to 60 of them for a start. What’s the point of having great turning points, climaxes, and resolutions if the scenes in between don’t work?
Besides my decision to focus on scenes, I also learned from McKee’s book why some stories I read, rich in detail and well-grounded, don’t hold my interest. Characterization is not character. No matter what hobbies, possessions, or fascinating careers are attached to characters, true character is revealed when a character makes a decision under pressure, often choosing the lesser of two evils.
Once again, I’m involved in a WIP, passing up opportunities to do good works and finish raking the leaves. I think writers will be confined after death in a Dante-like circle of hell where they’re provided with computers with programs that don’t work and critique partners whose sole interest is destroying the competition.