Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On Losing Interest.

I've been thinking about writing this entry for a while, as it's something that's been bothering me for quite some time.

If you're a regular reader here, you've most likely heard me talk about having ideas that don't work out.  Either I can't figure out how the story goes, or I never figure out how to develop it beyond the original idea, or I hammer away at it for so long trying to make it work that there's nothing left but a metaphorical pile of dust.  But what's bothering me is when I simply lose interest in a story altogether.

Before I started writing STARWIND, I finished a rough plot draft on something new; I've talked about this one before.  I had six pages of plot, a good deal of world and character development, and a magic system that worked without people knowing they were using magic.  It seemed like I had something good, but when I went back to it many months later, I just plain didn't care about it, and couldn't bring myself to work on it.

As much as I'd like to think that no time spent working on writing stuff is wasted, that one definitely feels like a waste.  And I'm trying to figure out how to keep that from happening again.

I know that I can't force myself to work on something I'm not interested in; a lot of the problems I had over the past six months came from thinking I had to be working on something all the time.  But I don't know how I go from "I want to work on this every day until it's ready for me to write it" to "I don't care about this any more and it's going to languish on my hard drive forever."  I've never been one for apathy, so it feels very strange to think that way about my own work.

One cause, I suppose, could be that I just wanted to see where the story went - I had an idea, I pursued it, and once I reached the end, that's all I needed to do.  But that seems really weird to me.  What's the point of developing a story if I'm not going to eventually write the whole thing?  Pretty much everything I've ever written has ended up with anywhere from zero to four people who actually read it.  So writing something and stopping at the halfway-plotted stage because that's as far as it needs to go seems . . . ridiculous.  Especially after making a page or so worth of notes on the theoretical sequels.

To make everything worse (because I need to do that, really I do), I can think of easily half a dozen different plots-in-progress that I was having trouble with, then figured out something to make them work, and got all excited only to stop working on them again after a day or two.  Call me melodramatic, but this is the sort of thing that feels like the slow death of me as a writer, sitting here unable to dredge up enough interest in my own work to do anything.

This has gotten depressing, so I'm going to cut off my pondering here and ask if the rest of y'all have ever dealt with the same thing.  Whatever your process is, have you ever just plain lost interest in what you were working on?  Did you figure out what caused it, or did you move on to whatever came next?  And did you ever regain interest in that abandoned project?


  1. Funny you should ask: I'm working on a project I've been off and on about since April of 2014.

    Yeah, I've been writing a rough draft for over three years (the first non sequel I've written since early 2014, actually). Sure, I could say that I was too busy with work and remodeling a house. I could say that I was too busy with all the publishing work and the novels actually under contract, but the real problem with this book was that I didn't have faith in me as a writer.

    I know, I keep coming back to this idea, but I really didn't think I could make this novel work the way I wanted to.
    And I can't.
    I don't know if it's because I lack the skill, the patience, or if the initial idea was critically flawed, but I really cannot manifest the beauty and the sweeping emotional arcs that I wanted so desperately to make in this or any other book. That failure alone--knowing that what I actually write is going to be so vastly different from what I had hoped to write--is enough to dry up the words.

    And worse, my literary past is littered with unfinished novels, half baked ideas and abandoned projects. It will always be this way. For me, some of them will never come to be, others are just not in a place to be a thing, so someday soon, I hope, but this is life: no guarantees.

    I feel like a failure every time I try to put together another query letter (because OMG, that never gets easier), and think about how this is going to be not my first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth, or even, heaven help me seventh book I've queried, this will be the eighth book I've sent into the trenches to pick of the spears of rejection. And yeah, the whole damn thing feels pointless.

    All of it.

    I can't make the stories I thought I wanted to write. They lack something, some quality that I can't quite make right. And then I remember that I'm taking myself too seriously. And I want to be taken seriously, but there's no one paying attention to me or my stories, so why the hell does it matter?

    This is the part where I fall into an existential dread and realize that I'm basically a ghost driving a skeleton upholstered in meat and skin. In short, enjoy what you have. Stop beating yourself up and forgive yourself. Everyone has a hard time.

    But I'm very serious about the forgiveness, it helps.

    1. It is funny, but most everything you've said here I could have said too (except the parts about publishing and writing sequels, because it's me). But I don't know how to be good to myself, or even nice to myself. I don't. It's something my therapist and I have been trying to work on but I'm getting nowhere.

      Thank you, though. It does help to know I'm not the only one dealing with this shit.

  2. It wasn't a waste. You just plotted a story, built a world, and designed a magic system that worked well. Now you know you can do it for a project you are excited about.

    1. ...Alex, I've been doing this writing thing regularly since I was thirteen. I already knew I could do all that.

  3. It's happened to me more than a few times. Sometimes I'm able to salvage certain ideas, even if its just a setting or a character, and incorporate them into other projects.

    1. I've done a lot of that. The last thing I worked on felt like my subconscious sort of threw together pieces from a bunch of things I'd been working on and melded them into a single story. I was happy to have it happen and write it all down, but now it's kind of... meh.

  4. If only all of my 'wasted' words could have been filtered into a story that would reach completion. But there's no way to know if a story is going to make it or not when it's in its first phases. At least, I can't tell the difference until the disinterest point arrives. I have a huge file full of started stories which never found an end--some even 40,000+ words. Maybe some ideas will be used someday. Most won't. I think that's where the importance of the joy of writing kicks in. I just have to keep reminding myself of that too. Over and over again.

    1. I hear you there. My idea file is currently at or near seventy pages, full of everything from a sentence or two (ideas I didn't want to forget) to multiple-page things that aren't yet ready for their own plotting document. And you're right, there really is no way to know what's going to work out or when it's going to happen. >_<

  5. I missed popping in last week when this was published, so I'm here now. Sorry to hear things are going rough. As a pantser, I don't quite have the same problem of finishing a plot. But I have a number of half-started stories, including one called Lust. I feel bad about that one, because it was for a local group of writers called The Seven, and it was supposed to be the first in the collection. But I couldn't find the passion for it, nor could I bring myself to work on it. I didn't make any progress, I put it aside, and finally, the project died. I feel like a big part in why The Seven failed. Had I only kept my passion for it, I probably could have propelled the others forward and released the promised seven deadly sins. The main character and her loving husband managed to survive to their own short story, Happily Ever After--where I envisioned it taking place after Lust, giving the opportunity to let Lust happen, though I know it never will.

    I wish I had some magic advice for igniting passion. I know myself well enough to know I hop from thing to thing, leaving dozens of barely-started projects (both writing and not) in my wake, that I just shrug it off anymore.