Friday, November 2, 2012

When is it Okay to Stop?

"Be persistent, relentless, and unstoppable, even when you want to stop. Especially when you want to stop."  --Adam Warren 

"You'd like to think that, wouldn't you?!"  --Vizzini, 'The Princess Bride'

So, I'm writing another new book, started it this past Saturday.  I didn't think that deserved its own blog entry, since odds are pretty damn good I'll start another one at some point in my life.  It's a book I've always been hesitant about writing, for a few reasons.  The first is that it's the start of a trilogy, and I'm really not sure about writing a book that's only sort-of a complete story when I'm still trying to get published.  The second is a much larger issue, and it's why having doubts after only six days.

The book and the world it takes place in were inspired by a video game I played a ton when I was younger, a game that's still one of my favorites.  I realized somewhere along the way in the world's creation that I wasn't quite being original in my planning, but I went with it anyway, since everything seemed original enough and I thought I'd changed things around enough to keep it from being obvious.

Now, nearly 20,000 words into the book, I have to admit it: damn, I couldn't be more wrong.

What I've written so far crosses the line from "inspired by" to "derivative of".  The book is following the game much more closely than I ever intended.  There are tiny moments that shout out the video game that I didn't really intend to put in - they just happened as I was writing.  Things like that are usually good, but in this case, I feel like it could get me in trouble.  I feel like getting this published would be tantamount to copyright infringement.  ...yes, I'm putting the cart before the horse when the cart is still a tree and the horse isn't even a zygote, but you get the idea.

This is why I'm thinking hard about cutting this off before I spend any more time on it.

I don't think stopping now would be a waste.  The planning document for the trilogy is twenty-four pages, and I already have a new plot in mind, one that would take place in this world but not follow the story that inspired everything.  I just know that there's so much writing advice out there that says not to stop once you've started a story.

But is there really a point to finishing a story when I couldn't, in good conscience, even try to do anything with it?  I know not everything's written to be published, but still.

I haven't made my decision yet, though I'm taking a night away from the story to mull things over.   Could definitely use some advice.


  1. Here's the swift kick to the pants:

    Writing, all writing, comes down to exactly one thing. Do you love it?

    Answer that question first.

    If you don't love the story (and I mean walk through flood waters and over burning coals), then you had no business writing it in the first place and it's time to move on.

    If you love this story, then finish this book. You can pick up that new plot line right in the middle of your first draft and revise it into existence when you go back through your rough draft and make it all work. Plot points change, settings change. Characters get axed. the first draft is about finding the path through the forest without a map in the dead of night. You're going to back track, or stick to the well lit roads of others. This is normal. Don't fear or worry, just write. When you finish this draft, go back and see your mistakes for what they are and revise. You don't finish a first draft and send it out to agents and editors. You finish a first draft and then work your bloody tail feathers off making it better. (bonus tip: first drafts are the nasty grime on the bottom of stroller wheels after you take the kids to the zoo. Everyone knows this, it's okay if you wrote some zoo dirt just so long as you don't send zoo dirt out to agents and editors! Revise, rewrite, reword)

    1. I've given this a lot of thought today, and realized that I never truly loved this story. I liked it, to be sure, but you're right; that's not enough.

      As for picking up the new plot line and going from there, that's not an option. The two plots are mutually exclusive, as the new one has the old one's antagonist as a protagonist with completely different things happening. But I've been working on that in my head today as well. Tomorrow, I will start writing it down, and see what happens.