65,000 Words Down the Drain


You might have started out with enthusiasm and a vision. With a spark of an idea, a single word, a sentence that intrigued you, an unusual character trait—and you’re off and running.

And then at some point you realize you’re running in the dark, taking a wrong turn, smacking into a wall.

It happens to every writer, whether you’re working on song lyrics, composing a poem, or writing a short story. It happens to novelists: the writing isn’t working and you have to make the decision to abandon.

The excitement I’d felt began with one sentence: “There are six of us.” I asked myself: Who is saying that? From there I wrote a single paragraph of 127 words, posted it here on the blog, and got this idea I wanted to try something new: I would use the first person plural narrator. “We” as the teller of the story. I envisioned this kind of Greek chorus storytelling device where I would slip in and out of the point of view of six characters, “three couples and all close friends” and use the “We” narrator to stitch together the different narrative arcs.  

I’ve written from the third person point of view (he, she) and from the first person singular (I), but the first personal plural was an exciting new concept for me. Until it failed. I couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t find the right voice. I got confused among the various characters, unable to create enough distinction between them. Now it’s 65,000 words and more than a year of work down the drain.

I’m not nearly as devastated as I expected to be. I’ve abandoned entire novels before and experienced great pain. Not so much this time. Am I getting used to failure? Oh, right. There is no failure in writing: there is only rewriting. It’s all part of the process. Did I actually believe that now? Or is it that I’m older and the stakes are lower, that no one is waiting with bated breath for my next book to come out?

I don’t want to dig too deeply, lest I begin to feel worse. But all is not lost. There are a couple of characters that still interest me, and a storyline I’m not done with, so I’m going to begin again, with a different novel this time, a different narrator, a different voice, and some of the same characters and plot. But I’m abandoning my “We” narrator. It just wasn’t working.

P.S. If you do happen to be waiting with bated breath for my next novel, are you all caught up on my oeuvre?  IN FLIGHT is my most recent (also makes a great holiday gift). And if you like eBooks, THE CULLING is my contribution to dystopian literature.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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