Music for today's entry is brought to you by Depeche Mode.
I've talked a lot about having many different versions of an idea, all of which hit some sort of wall and stopped working. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I've started at least one previous blog entry talking about this very thing.
I'd pride myself on my consistency, but y'know, this is something I'd really like to stop.
When I reach a point when something stops working and set it aside, I'll often come back to the same planning document, salvage what I can, and shove all the broken parts to the bottom with the label 'deleted'. Which, as you might have noticed, means I don't actually delete that stuff. In theory, I keep it around so I don't lose any good ideas.
But in practice, those things become a giant weight on the planning process, a reminder of everything I tried that didn't work. I have planning documents where there's more text in the 'deleted' section than anywhere else, because I changed so much as I tried to figure it all out. And it's far too easy to scroll into that section and remember how much time I've spent chasing a story and not finding it.
As I'm sure you can imagine, this is incredibly discouraging and doesn't help me get anything done. And a major side effect is a loss of interest in the project. It's hard to find what got me excited about the idea when that's buried under pages and pages of things I built up around it only to watch them come crashing down.
So, I decided to try something new when one of my projects started getting tangled up in its own previous incarnations. I stripped the whole thing down to its basic concept, to the idea that made me want to write it in the first place, and started working up again from there. It's not so much "forget everything you think you know" but more "you told me to go back to the beginning".
Fact: any writing advice you can sum up with a quote from "The Princess Bride" is bound to be helpful.
Better than that, though, is that it's actually working. For one story, I realized a few weeks ago that I was telling it backwards (long story), but I had to strip it down to its basic idea (Robert E. Howard's "Tangled") and go from there for the new order to work. For another, I determined that the best way to get a crazy magic-user to the final conflict I saw for her was to make her much more of an anti-authority anti-hero from the start, and reworking things with her has been incredibly fun so far. Both stories are turning out a lot darker than I thought, and I'm eager to see where they go.
The most important part, though, is that I get to keep working on stuff I worried was either dead or heading that way. I feel like I've lost so much over the years. I have three plots-in-progress to work on now, and I'm still feeling a lot of things out, but it's great to have a new start.
Here's hoping I don't end up referencing this post in another few months talking about how nothing ever works. :P