Writing on a Whim: The Project That Won’t Let Go

The other day, posting elsewhere, I commented on the fact that I was about to get back to writing after spending the first couple of months of this year working on short story revisions and a proposal for the next two Thieftaker books.  When I don’t write for too long, my mood starts to sour, and I’m not very pleasant to be around.

And so I was looking forward to this week because I was finally — FINALLY — going to get back to writing original stuff.  I had in mind to work on a new short story or two set in the Thieftaker world.

Then Monday arrived, and I decided to do something totally different.

See, I have this book that I’ve been working on for the better part of seven years now.  I haven’t been working on it continuously, obviously.  In that time I’ve also managed to write six other novels (all of them either published or in production), as well as two books that are still in the developmental phase, and at least half a dozen short stories.

But this book . . . this book haunts me.  I love it, and at one point we (my agent and I) had a publisher for it.  Unfortunately, the publisher went out of business, leaving the book homeless (at least we got the rights back).  We tried to sell it elsewhere, but no one bought it.  I reworked it a couple of times, tweaking this and that.  Still no interest.  I tore it apart and put it back together, improving it immensely, but by this time I could tell it still wasn’t ready for one last round of submissions to publishers.  I put it away for months, managed to forget about it for a while as I immersed myself in other projects, most notably the Thieftaker books and stories.

But always the story has lurked in the back of my mind.  Because, as I say, I love it.  Truly.  In many ways I think it remains the best thing I’ve ever done, and with the major rewrite I did a couple of years ago it is closer than ever to being, potentially, a big project for me.  But it still needs one last set of revisions.

What can I tell you about it?  It’s a contemporary urban fantasy with a strong mystery element, and a bit of romantic interest thrown in for good measure.  It contains some of my best character work, particularly the POV character.  I suppose it’s a bit like a modern version of Thieftaker, though with enough differences to keep readers guessing.

And for some reason, when I sat down to work on Monday, fully intending to work on Thieftaker books, I found instead that this story was beckoning to me once more.  Suddenly, like a phone call from an old friend, or the reappearance of an old nemesis.  Without having planned it, I found myself opening up this book, whose continued obscurity remains the single greatest regret of my career.

I had long-since resolved that whenever I returned to the book, it would be the last time.  One more round of rewrites, and if I couldn’t sell it after that, I would be done with it.  That was before epublishing took off the way it has, and so I now feel that other options may be open to me.  But still this is the last time I plan to revise it.  So maybe I was waiting for the right moment to dive in once more.  Apparently something in my subconscious has decided that this is that time.  We’ll see if I was right.

Writers can be fickle creatures.  Many of us flit from one project to the next, sometimes without any rational plan or work schedule.  I’m usually not like that.  I have a work schedule for the year that I try to follow.  But this time I’m going to listen to my instincts.  The time has come to finish this book, for good or for ill.  Let’s see what happens.

I’ll keep you posted.

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3 Responses to Writing on a Whim: The Project That Won’t Let Go

  1. Laura says:

    David, this sounds fantastic … and very encouraging. I have two such projects that won’t let go, either, and I still find myself jotting down notes when they come to me. The stories and their worlds have evolved and are getting better with age, but I’m trying really hard to focus on one thing at a time right now. And I want to do these stories the justice they deserve, so these two projects are “treats” for now.

    My point is, I find it discouraging when I hear “if you trunked that novel, you shouldn’t go back to it”. In these cases, for each of them, I think I would be doing myself a disservice to forget about them completely. Can’t wait to hear how this goes for you!

  2. dbjackson says:

    Thanks very much, Laura. Just about every writer I know has at least one book or story that they revisit now and again. I agree with you: A story that you love, you should never allow to die. Sometimes a story just hasn’t had it’s proper time, yet. That’s how I feel about this one. The story as originally written had some great stuff in it, but with the changes I’ve made, and the ones I’m making now, it’s finally going to mature into the book it has needed to be.

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