Dedication vs Denial: Are You Beating a Dead Horse?

Last night, I had an unexpected idea cross my mind: what if I was to make the male lead in my sci-fi, Renegade, a female rather than a male? And keep the human name because Simon is from a mono-gendered race, and therefore doesn’t understand what denotes a human male name from a female one? It sounded pretty brilliant- for about five seconds. Swapping Simon’s gender has no benefit to the plot. It is the literary equivalent to a publicity stunt. A cheap tactic to gain interest on a property that, perhaps, might not grab everyone who comes across it. And it shames me that this thought even crossed my mind. I have a deep love for this story and the characters that inhabit the world. A friend read the book and liked it. Two others have agreed to read it as well. I recently re-read its latest version. Barring some minor changes (some parts could benefit from more character interaction), it flowed well. I enjoyed it. It stands as a good doorway into the other two books in the trilogy.

But I’ve also been working on this story since 2005. It has seen dozens of revisions. Simon himself has changed with it. The narrative was, at times, dreadfully wooden. Uninspired. Dull. My sister likened it to reading a historical book. She hated the female lead. My antagonist was as multidimensional as your standard 80s action movie villain. Even Simon came across as sadly one dimensional. There was no heart in it, only cold, hard facts. And she was right. So I took it to the editing desk. Again, and again and again. Part of me wonders if wanting to inject such a radical change into its makeup at this stage is sounding its death knell. I don’t mean that it is destined to share the same shelf as other ideas that I couldn’t make work. Maybe I have done all I can for it. Adding or taking anything away now will only make it worse. It must be allowed to stand on its own two feet and I, like an anxious mother, must let it. This is a good example of beating a dead horse.

Here’s another example: I had a friend who once thought I was addicted to editing. I had just finished my immense epic fantasy (found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/184758572/The-Last-Hero), but my work was far from done. What she defined as an editing addiction was just the natural progression of a story’s life. However, at the time, I thought she was right: that it WAS done, and I couldn’t let it go. So I did. I turned my focus to other things. The Last Hero languished for years. My firstborn novel receded into the background to make way for its siblings. Given the fact that I devoted three years to its creation, letting it waste away on my hard drive is a cruel fate. That’s why I made it available online.

Sometimes I think about that story. I even debated on dusting it off and taking it through a revision. Its biggest problem isn’t anything plot-related (though I can think of a few scenes that can be cut). It’s the length. It clocks in at over 200K words in length. That’s at LEAST a trilogy, if collected in one volume. Were I to cut it into multiple pieces now, I’d need to make certain each part I selected had a definitive beginning, middle and end. I’d probably spend another three years working on it. Hell, had I not stopped when I did back in 2003, I might have a fantasy trilogy on hand already. Revisions for the first book would probably be done, or close to done. I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer and what works versus what doesn’t. It could really benefit it. Alas, it is a project for another day. Perhaps I’ve resigned myself to its fate. Or I’m not willing to put all that work into an old idea when I could turn it into a new one. A fine example of not beating a dead horse if I saw one.

Letting a project go is a true test for any writer no matter the skill level. We’re not just faced with questions related to the plot, pacing, characters, etc. We’re faced with being able to identify when it’s time to hold on, and when it’s time to let go. Sometimes we become so involved in our stories, we lose the ability to disconnect from them and observe from a distance. I think that’s what happened to me for Renegade. It’s time to let this one go.

 

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