I keep all my writing stuff in a dedicated folder on my Mac. I worked really hard to come up with a clever name for this folder. I call it “Writing.”
It has many sub-folders in it, absolutely stuffed with half-completed books, stories, ideas, concepts, first lines, clips of news items, and so on.
The other day I traipsed through the folders to see what I was doing ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago. I found several abandoned projects, by which I mean novels I’d made pretty strong headway on yet never finished. Which caused me to reflect on why I might have set them aside.
One reason is that in those early years I was I was writing with reckless abandon. I was coming up with ideas, developing some of them but, for one reason or another, moving on to others. I’m sure you can relate.
So I came across a folder with a title I didn’t remember. In the folder was a document of 15k words, the start of a novel. In another doc in the folder were my notes on same. This project was twelve years old.
I opened the novel and started to read.
Wow, I’m really good! (I humbly thought). I mean, this thing took off like gangbusters. It was laying the foundation for one of those twisty, turny plots that would make Koontz happy and Coben proud.
It has a protagonist who keeps getting a recurring thought of two seemingly unconnected words: Gut bane. Obviously, this indicated a clue his memory wasn’t clear on. Just as obviously, somewhere deep in the plot, the connection would be revealed in time to solve the entire mystery!
I read on, loving myself more and more. At the end of the 15k, the last words written were: Gut bane.
I realized then I could not remember what they meant.
I quickly opened my notes. There I had laid out the basic premise and some notes on characters and scenes.
But not one word on the mystery phrase. Ack!
I did a Mac spotlight search for the phrase. It sent me right back to my abandoned novel-in-progress.
My wail of frustration reached the ears of my editor, the lovely Mrs. B.
“What on earth was that?” she asked.
“The sound of my million-copy bestseller circling the drain!” I said. I explained the situation.
“So why don’t you just make up something new for those words?” she said. She’s the practical one.
“It’s going to drive me nuts,” I said.
She smiled, and I know she was thinking, “You’re a writer, you’re already nuts.”
She is also the wise one.
I have put the Boys in the Basement to work, searching for the ephemeral synapse that holds the answer. But so far, bupkus.
So, note to self (and to you): Don’t ever leave a project without jotting down all the key plot points in that fertile imagination of yours. Even if you jump to something else, you may come back to this one, even years hence.
A few words about process. I’m a plotter, but when I’m in the creative mode, I let myself play. I have fits and starts in my writing folder. I still have a regular “creativity time” where I just let things rip. I play the Title game (make up titles and see what they spark), the First-Line game (boy, have I got some great ones…I just need the novels to go with them), and the old reliable What-if game.
But from now on, I’ll never stop on a project with a great twist without leaving myself a note on what the heck the great twist is!
So, do you have abandoned projects of various lengths? Can you remember why you abandon them? Do you plan to go back and restart any?