Please welcome Faith René Boggus and her post on picking up old, not-quite-forgotten projects.
Piles of papers and notebooks slowly collecting a layer of grey particles. A thousand words hidden as a million zeros and ones stashed in a forgotten part of a hard drive. Every writer has abandoned projects. Sometimes it’s that you realise you don’t like the piece any more or that you just can’t figure out how the big plot points come together. Other times it’s that you love the project so much that you don’t want it to end or that you’ve gotten so busy that you don’t think you can justify spending time writing. There are so many types of works that are left behind.
The What Was I Thinking
These are the stories that leave you wondering if you were high on painkillers or writing after being awake for over 24 hours. The ones that don’t make any sense or are so bizarre that they catch you off guard. The ones that cause you to sit in stunned shock or laugh until you cry because the plot is just so strange or poorly tossed together. You set it aside after a while, thinking that you might be able to salvage it eventually. But years later, you end up finding it and having another session of crying laughter or shocked confusion.
Most of the projects that I find after abandoning them are this type. I start writing or plotting with just a character and a specific scene in mind, and then try to form the rest of the book or short story around it. And golly, does it lead to some interesting finds. One of which being a book about a girl who lived in a retainment camp in the future and managed to escape because of a promise she made to a friend. That promise? To save a pet frog that hadn’t been seen for over ten years. Somehow this escape led to the revolution needed in that country. Excuse me as I go ask my 13-year-old self what I was thinking.
The Does It Have to End
These are the types of projects that you set aside because you just aren’t quite ready to finish them yet. And then you just wait. And wait. And wait. And you’re still waiting, years later. You enjoy the characters too much. You love the setting. You smile when you think about the plot. But you still don’t finish it.
If you wait too long, this might turn into a What Was I Thinking. The plot becomes confused in your mind, and something you once love then becomes dreaded or comical. Be wary of setting works that you love aside. If you do, you may not ever finish them.
The Can This Be Over
These are the writings that you’ve just worked on so hard for so long that your brain can barely function when you need to think about it. It’s the kind that you were once excited about, and you became determined to finish it. Then the excitement faded, but the determination stayed. At least for a little while.
You eventually set it aside because you just can’t think about it anymore. And for years, you leave it because of the negative memories tied to trying to write it and getting bored, tired, frustrated, or even angry. So instead of finishing it, you just ignore it, hoping it will finish itself.
The I Did This
These are the books that you look back on as you are writing with pride and slight awed confusion. You love how they are turning out and want to keep writing. But you’re so amazed with what you have written and aren’t certain if you can continue with such wonderful writing or plot or characters that you slowly lose confidence, even though the evidence that you can write and think like that is directly in front of your eyes. So as you lose confidence, you slowly stop writing. Making sure that the piece remains un-marred.
However, you still get excited when you think about the plot or the writing. You dwell on the characters and the scenes. You daydream about the settings. You live in the story a little bit still, even though you aren’t working on it. Go ahead. Pick it up. Keep writing. You can do it.
The I Completely Forgot
These are the collections of words and thoughts that you enjoy writing and can’t wait to finish. But as you keep writing, you realise that you can’t remember where the book was going or who the characters are or what the plot was. The pieces just don’t fit together. Your memories and thoughts about the project are just out of your grasp, and you start to get tired of trying to reach them. So you put it away to try and figure it out another day.
But then you just don’t get it out again. You think about it on occasion trying to remember tiny pieces, but they still elude your grasp.
But there are ways that you can pick these pieces back up and recreate them or finish them, whatever type of abandoned project it is.
Here are some of my reasons why you should pick up your old and forgotten writings and how you can use them or finish them.
Rereading your work can show you how much your style and writing have changed.
If you’re anything like me, your style and writing change from project to project and even from scene to scene. Looking back on things that I wrote growing up to the things I wrote in college, or even the things that I wrote as recently as earlier this year, I see a huge difference in my wording and tone. I find it very refreshing and even comical or exciting to reread my past works and see how much I’ve changed. Sometimes I even find a style that I want to return to. I want to dip my feet back in that pond and feel the cool reviving water swirl around my feet. And then I want to take off, leaving it’s trail behind me as my wet footsteps leave words and stories in my wake.
You can find amazing quotes that you want to use in different projects.
Far more often, I find quotes that I hate rather than find ones that I love. However, whenever I stumble across a quote that I enjoy in a project I just plain don’t want to use or finish anymore, I think of the projects that I do want to finish and try to find a place for them there. Sometimes these little phrases even spark something entirely new, and I form a brand new story or poem around the once-forgotten words. Perhaps the same will take place for you.
You might like the premise or idea even if you don’t like the writing.
Rereading works that I left by the wayside has led to this discovery more times than I care to admit. I have so many short story and novel ideas or even entire plots figured out from projects that I had started but didn’t truly enjoy at the time. Most of the time, when I’m no longer enjoying a project, you can easily tell in my writing. The writing becomes sloppy and difficult to understand or just very dull and bland. So I scrap all the writing, but I keep the plot or the premise and save it. I tuck them safely in folder to ensure I don’t lose them. Eventually, I dig them out and start writing. And I enjoy them much more than before.
What type of abandoned project is the most common one for you to find in your writing folders? How often do you look back over your old writings? Let us know in the comments below!
Also, thank you so much Azelyn for letting me be a part of Word Storm!
Meet the Author
Faith René Boggus is a linguist obsessed with European culture, particularly when it comes to France and England. She likes to collect mugs, create art, experiment with words, and drink tea. You can read more about her and her stories on her blog, Abogguslife.
Previously in Theme: Abandoned!
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There are many times when a writer must simply abandon a project that is not working out as planned. This has happened to the most famous and talented writers, including Joyce Carol Oates and Ernest Hemingway.ReplyDelete
There are many reasons why a project must be abandoned. Most often the writer loses interest in the material. You can't write about something you have lost interest in. Another reason is that you have chosen the wrong subject, or something you know little about and care about.
You must write about something you know about, and CARE about, in order to do a good job and create a readable story. Many writers stick with a project simply because they have started it, when they could be using their time on something more worthwhile and suited to their knowledge.
When in doubt about abandoning a project and concentrating on something else, always ask yourself: "Is this project one that I really care about?" and also "Is this project one that is worthy of my time and effort, or should I be working on something else?" I the answer to either question is "No" then the project should be scrapped before you have wasted your life on it.
Excellent points. Thanks for the comment!Delete