Why I Abandoned 4 Manuscripts Before Sitting Down to Write a Novel

Day 3: I want to write daily throughout the month of May. These are just short free writes.

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Years ago (five, I think) I envisioned a character who embodied the mysterious and the feminine. It’s hard to say what sparked this. If anything, a culmination of experiences made this idea grow.

Two experiences do stand out to me: studying the Queen Mother of the West, Xiwangmu, from Chinese mythology and walking through the woods in search of the feminine forces present in nature. From these studies and wanderings came the desire to write this character.

At first, she drifted too far out of reach for my readers to enjoy. Then, she tipped the other direction. She became too relatable.

I worked her into draft after draft, plot line after plot line. I spent years trying to find the perfect story to tell with this character in mind. This may seem like a strange process–I find it to be strange, at least. Why start with a character who is more a concept than a person?

That did become troublesome. I kept telling the stories of other characters who encountered her. The downside of this? I kept creating flat, boring “main” characters, or I inadvertently created plot holes trying to get them to cross paths.

It took a long time to get frustrated. As a writer, I think I accepted the fact that attempting a novel would not be easy. Then again, I first started trying to write a novel at the age of eleven. This is not a new journey. Hell, I went to college for creative writing.

I considered forgetting this character. I wondered if I was wasting time by trying so hard to capture something that seemed impossible. I could be writing another story or working on another project. There are other stories to write. At least, I tried to tell myself this. But I couldn’t give her up.

So I scrapped everything but her name. I abandoned at least FOUR manuscripts and countless ideas. I thought: if I start fresh, maybe this will work.

With that in mind, I finally sat down and wrote Mona’s story. Her story. No one else’s. Suddenly, I had a full plot and world and other characters flowing freely beneath my fingertips. By bringing her into focus, everything sort of… fell into place.

Now, why I didn’t think of this sooner, I don’t know. Sometimes the most obvious answers are the ones that take the longest to get to. Or I just really love torturing myself as a writer.

Writing a novel isn’t easy for most of us. If you’re reading this and you’re stuck, keep going. Change something if it isn’t working. Write when you don’t feel like it. But don’t stop trying to write your novel.

I would love to hear your thoughts or see what you’ve been writing. Just leave me a comment or send me an email at bookwitchedits@gmail.com. I enjoy connecting with fellow writers.

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