Good Day! We’ve all been here at some time - your novel has not been going well, or maybe after finishing it you discover you hate it. When I began writing, “The Surgeon’s Blade” I thought I’d write a nice little romance for a change as I’d been told by my beta-readers I could write romance. After 5000 words I was bored. It all needed beefing up and in the process I got myself tied up in knots before I finally worked out just what I was going to write! But unless you can get yourself out of a potential catastrophe what do you do? Hence my burn it, bury it or finish it scenario.
The big question is if you do burn the manuscript, will you regret later?
Well let’s have a bit of fun, call it a New Year Quiz if you like.
We’ll take a look and see if there’s anything in it worth saving. Please look at the following six questions, and write down the answers to each one. Keep track of your points for each answer.
1. Where’s the theme of your book?
- Can you write down, in ten words or less, the theme? If you can, do it. (Examples of theme are: Rite of passage, Love conquers all, good guy triumphs over evil one, etc.) If you knew your theme, award yourself 10 points.
- If you don’t know what the theme is, can you locate possible themes as you read through? Write the possible themes down as you find them. If you find one or more possibilities, award yourself 5 points.
- If you don’t know and can’t find signs of a theme, then it’s 0 points.
Can you honestly sit down immediately and write one sentence summing up the story? And in no more than thirty words. If you can, 10 points.
- Maybe. Can you tell the story in three sentences and under a hundred words? 5 points.
- Neither one sentence nor three will untangle this mess in a coherent fashion. 0 points.
- Can you name the single character who matters most to the story? Write down in one or two short sentences what this character wants. 10 points if you have all of this. Subtract 5 if you can list the character and his needs, but your story is not actually about fulfilling them.
- If not, can you limit the story to two most important characters? Can you write down in one or two sentences their most compelling needs and wants? Is the story about fulfilling them? You get 7 points if you get the characters and their needs, and if the story is about meeting those needs. Take off 5 points if the story is about something other than meeting the most compelling needs of the two main characters.
- If you can do all of the above, but have to do it for three or more main characters, you get 2 points. If your story isn’t about meeting the needs of your crowd, 0 points.
- Can you find conflict (defined as the character/characters dealing with obstacles that stand in the way of their meeting their needs) on every page? Look. If you have to, on a disposable copy of the manuscript, go through with a highlighter and mark every instance where conflict occurs. (Note that conflict is not thinking about problems — it is dealing with them.) If you have marks on at least 80% of your pages, give yourself 10 points.
- If you have marks on at least 50-79% of your pages, give yourself 5 points.
- If you have marks on less than 50% of your pages, your characters are spending too much time thinking, and not dealing! No points.
- Can you write out, quickly and clearly, why this story matters, and to whom? Do you have convincing reasons? Do you care - and will anyone else care about them? If you write out reasons, and they mattered, to you or anyone else, 10 points.
- If this was difficult, but you finally found something, and with work the story could matter to someone, 5 points.
- If you had no reasons to you or to anyone else, 0 points.
- Are there sections that, even though you know they’re wrong, are magic for you? Are there places where you can read through and taste that magic? It makes you yearn to know what happens next? 10 points.
- Are there things that you like, characters you care about even if you’re not sure what to do with them, including favourite images or scenes that seem, important? 5 points.
- Nothing you love, like, or makes you want to go on? 0 points.
40-60 points — Let It Survive & Live
You’re probably tired, frustrated, you’ve put a lot into the story, and you are too close to the material. Leave it for a while, but have faith - you have the outline of something that, with revision, is going to be worth your time.
20-39 points — Let’s Bury It
Stick it in the back of your knicker drawer. Or put it on your “Look at later” file on your hard drive. When you start thinking about it again and how you can make it work then go for it!. Dust if off, rework it, and be glad that you saved it.
0-19 points — Light a few Joss sticks, say a prayer and Burn It
Yes burn it. You are flogging a dead horse, and if you keep on, you’ll burn yourself out on writing something that isn’t worth your time, passion, hopes, and effort. You can now move on to something that isn’t eating you alive.
Throwing away a project is hard as you’ve already put some work and hope into it. No one likes to admit defeat. Writing is like everything else – and learning to tell a dead story from one that can be patched up and sent out into the world is a critical writing skill.
So let go!
Since New Year it’s been hectic in our household. The 1st January saw the release of my third novel in the Diana Rivers mystery thrillers, “The Surgeon’s Blade” which has been well received and on 7th January, “The Assassins’ Village” went free for 48 hours. “The Assassins’ Village” zoomed up Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de charts, attaining the lofty positions of #48 free in Kindle store #3 mystery/thrillers, #17 free in kindle store #1 mystery/women sleuths and in the top 200 in Amazon.de! I was dead chuffed as I had no idea so many people were keen to get their hands on it!
At this point may I thank everyone who downloaded "The Assassins’ Village", making it one of the most popular books on Amazon this year! (Haha!) I also thank everyone who has bought any of my other novels. 2011 was a fantastic year for me and I’m already looking forward to 2012. May your own 2012 be happy and successful!