Another idea from TheFutureofHope (I can’t tell you how much I adore her lately, this is the second post in a row she’s saved my booty) was to write about times when things went wrong.
First of all, let’s settle one thing. I’m an optimist. Now, if I’m having one of those days when things are just going completely wrong and stuff that should works and always works has ceased to work (big weakness there) I get pessimisty, but in general I’m a happy ‘well something good can come out of this’ type of person. So there haven’t so much things that went wrong as stuff that I put down and said “Yeah, we’re going to chock this up as a learning experience.”
And of those there have been many. I’m gonna outline two. Because most of my ‘mistakes’ have actually been recycled around as refined ideas for later. Heck, it might happen with one of these, but I’m banned from the second. Don’t worry, you’ll see why.
The first one was a broken plot. I was trying to fashion a love story in which a boy and a girl were born for each other. In this world, everyone was born with a mark which pretty much defined their existence. Long story short, girl, who is to be boy’s wife, is born with the wrong mark, things go horribly wrong, boy and girl still fall in love and in the end everyone learns something.
Ok, even I’m thinking that’s salvageable now, but my trouble with it is that it’s just too straight forward. I tried valiantly to write it, but the simple truth was that my own story bothered me with it’s linearity, and I couldn’t seem to fix it. I tried zooming out in the world, I tried narrowing the story to something short, I tried changing up some of the general ideas about the world and the magic to add another element into the story.
But I just didn’t know how to handle it. Now I suspect it might have been a straight romance lurking in my brain (not knocking it! A reasonably straight forward happy ending love wins all story just says Romance to me…) At the time I was writing it, I had no idea how to handle that kind of story, and I think if I tried tackling it again, I might have better luck.
Trouble is, some of the elements have been worked into other stories. They were sparkly and pretty and so I sort of pilfered them. Maybe that’s good. It’ll force me to think about it in a different way.
The second is… oh, it’s kind of painful to admit. But I have a weakness for this genre…well, if it can be called a genre. And hey, I admit it really helped sharpen my writing claws. I suspect every author ever writes one of these, whether as an original or a fanfiction.
Yes, gentle readers, I’m talking about the self-insertion story.
Believe me, I was the queen of these for awhile. Every story I wrote from elementary through about half of high school was self-insertion of some flavor. A few were ok as much as a sixth grader’s story could be. One I’m particularly proud of showcases how my writing evolved simply because it was so long and written over the course of three years. Writing a self-insertion was the first time I ever utilized a writing partner (Hi Sarah!) and it was the first time I sat at the computer and wrote like an obsessed madwoman.
I was a late bloomer to writing. It was sophomore year of high school before I realized that the reason I’d never liked English was that I was reading Jurassic Park while the fourth grade was still on ‘Fourth Grade Reader’. Because we were now reading The Scarlet Letter, and The Count of Monte Cristo I found that I actually kind of adored it. Unlike some of my writer friends, who’ve been crafting and honing this skill for pretty much ever and are flat out amazing at it (Hi Jennifer!) it took a reason like a self-insertion story with my besties to make me love writing. Whatever it takes, right?
The reason I’m not hiding this in shame is two fold. Number one: I don’t believe any writer doesn’t have that awkward self-insertion/Mary-sue stage. Number two: I’m freaking proud of that monstrosity! Ok, it’s bad in many, many senses of the word, but it was fun. I learned a lot. And yes, a few of the elements from that story have found their way into my other stories.
The take away lesson here is that none of your stories are useless, failures, pointless or otherwise bad. They’re learning. They’re refining. They’re practice. Yes, practice that’s never going to see the light of day and will never, ever stop making you twitch when you unexpectedly run across it, but practice none-the-less. I never would have fallen in love with writing without those darn self-insertions. And without that wonky attempted fantasy-that-refused-to-get-complicated I wouldn’t have some of those characters still kicking around in my head, nor a few romantic elements in a few other stories.
What about you? What are your writing things that just didn’t work? Did you dismantle them and use them for parts? Are you saving them for later? Or do you just put them down and walk away?