When I’ve been working on novels in the past, I’ve always written in a non linear fashion. I would jump around a lot especially when I was struggling with a scene or a character and so rather than let the entire project slow down I would walk away (not literally) and tackle another part of the novel which I didn’t have problems with.
Until I had problems with that too of course.
This method kept me going, but I found that sometimes when I went back to the problem child I still couldn’t work through it. On some occasions I would rewrite it completely. With others I would replace it with something else that did work. On rare occasions I would give up completely as either I had no interest in that scene or a replacement wouldn’t work.
On those occasions I realised that perhaps the novel wasn’t going to pan out, because if I couldn’t make something that was once fundamental to the story work (or worse, didn’t have any interest in a portion of it) then perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.
Throwing an entire novel (or part thereof) away when you’ve devoted a lot of time and effort (and perhaps love for a while) is a bit soul destroying and I would agonize over the decision for a good few days. Still, I would convince myself it was the right thing to do and move on to something else even though it felt like a little piece of me had died.
I’ve hit that moment with one of the short stories from the Hope Town series that I’m currently working on, but I’ve found that this time its different; a bit simpler really. I can jettison the short that I had been working on and pick up the next one. Although I’ve mapped out a lot of the series already, there’s room to pick up plot points or characters or relationships and see if they can fit in another story. Its not always going to work, but since all the stories are designed to be self contained its not the end of the world.
Now, with the stories being part of a shared universe and having seeded plot points in one that are designed to pay off in the future, or mapped out a few overarching story arcs, then I can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater in all cases. In those scenarios I’ll pick it up gently, wrap it in a towel, kick the bath over and let it drain away.
In reality, I’ll keep the story on file and perhaps come back to it at some point. In the meantime, I’ve set myself deadlines so its off I go with something else.