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F is for False Starts

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

If you’ve been writing for a long time, you know that not everything that drips from your fingertips is gold. If you’re new to this, you will discover it soon. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but occasionally, you’re going to spend a lot of time on a piece of writing–days, weeks, months, even years–only to find out it doesn’t work and that you have to shelve it.

Over my many years of writing–almost three decades now–I’ve had this happen more times than I can or want to count, especially in the beginning. I wrote entire books, even revised and rewrote them several times, only to have them end up rotting away on 3.5 disks and actual paper somewhere in my closet, never to be seen again. I have whole notebooks of stuff I wrote back in highschool that I can’t even look at now without cringing.

What happened? Did I not have passion for these works, did I not want to see them through? Not at all. I loved each and every thing I wrote, at the time I wrote it. I believed in it and tried to sculpt it with tender loving care, but at the time, I didn’t have the proper tools to do that sculpting with. This happens with most writers. We learn by trial and error, by doing, by writing. Lots and lots of stuff.

All those pieces of writing that got discarded along the path, I consider practice. They helped me grow and learn, to find my voice and style, and most importantly, they taught me the discipline of writing. I have at least eleven (terrible) books rotting in my closet. I loved each one of them, but they will never fly. Yet, if I can write eleven (terrible) books, I know I’m a writer. I know I can produce the work and put the time in. I know that sometimes, I can just do it for the love of the writing, which is the important part.

And lest you think once you get published it doesn’t happen anymore, think again–I recently wrote a 30,000 word novella that I now realize is flat and needs to be put away. It still stings, even after all these years.

How about you? Do you have works that fell by the wayside over the years? How do you feel about them? What did you learn from them?

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

30 thoughts on “F is for False Starts Leave a comment

  1. I find that these false starts often make themselves useful in terms of creating new leads for other pieces. I’m the same way about never discarding them. I often go back and reread them, either changing and editing them to follow the story further or just gleaning out little pieces to use in other works. They also tend to help in terms of giving me “practice space” to develop characters and try out new things without worrying about the overall effect on the piece because I know it wouldn’t be going anywhere else. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

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  2. “eleven (terrible) books rotting in my closet…” Wow. That’s a whole lot of writing…
    If I had to wait to have 11 rotten books before I publish, then I’ll be about 100 years old at that stage! LOL
    I suppose we just have to plug away… persevere till the end… 🙂
    Writer In Transit

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    • LOL it makes me feel very old, but I’ve also written so much stuff. I’ve produced tons and tons of work over the years, too bad not all of it was quality…

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. So many.. oh so many… A few of them I have held tight, though. They’re false starts, but a few have enough of a seed of a good story (or powerful characters) that I know, eventually, they will find their proper telling.

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  4. I shelved my 18th and 19th century characters when I was about twelve, and honestly never thought I’d work with them again. But then, maybe two years ago, I decided they were meant to be if I never forget these characters and their stories after over 20 years away. I’m really looking forward to resurrecting them, when my queue is finally empty. It just wasn’t the right time yet for me to write these stories properly when I was a child and preteen. Now, as an adult and much more experienced writer, I’ll be able to create much stronger characters and storylines.

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    • That’s wonderful! You never know when you’ll be able to pull something out from the past and make it shine. That’s why it’s a good idea to never throw anything away.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I’ve got 26,000 words of a novel in the making that I’ve been working on for a year. And it’s only recently that I’ve realised my skills aren’t yet at a level to do it justice. So I have learnt something. And I’ll keep it on the back burner until I get better. I have to hope that I’ll improve to the point that it does see the light of day but I’m not going to rush it.

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  6. I have just begun writing, but I’ve experienced this time and time again as a painter. I have closets full of half-finished work–half-finished series of works! One or two gems have resurfaced for book covers, however, and all that toil finally makes sense to me. Nothing that you put your heart into is wasted effort.

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  7. Art is subjective. The band Guns N Roses is reported to have thought very little of Sweet Child of Mine yet it was their biggest hit. I’ve experienced that on a much smaller scale on my old blog. Some of the posts I didn’t think much of were the ones my readers absolutely loved.

    So my question is, how does a writer know the difference between a false start and a piece they may not love but that audiences would?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve experienced this before too, where things I didn’t think much of or didn’t put much effort into were the things people liked the best. The problem is you never know what the masses are going to like–people are so diverse and trends change constantly. Many times you’re just rolling the dice and hoping things go your way. My only advice is just to keep trying. The more shots you take, the more likely one of them will hit the mark.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Had more false starts before taking up blogging and finding flash and micro fiction forms, now have completed some writings, although my efforts often make me cringe when reading after a while 😀 enjoying your posts, look forward to more, cheers 🙂

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