Monday, October 05, 2009

Sending Up a Test Balloon


It's been a while since we had a rainy, do-nothing weekend, but this past one was just that. Great, I thought, this is the chance I need to focus on the idea I've been dating (to borrow Joni's term) to see if there's really a book in it.

Or maybe I should say to find out if my heart's in it. At times, I like to do a 30-page test run. If I love the characters, the concept, and feel excited about writing the story at the end of those pages, I go ahead and put everything I have into developing that world and its people. If I run out of steam before finishing those pages, I save the file and put it away. Doesn't mean I'll never come back to it; it just means I'm not approaching the original idea from the correct angle.

This weekend, at around page twenty (this after cutting and replacing chunks of it a half-dozen times) I came to the conclusion that the test balloon was sinking like a stone. Something's critically wrong, and no matter how hard I tried to reformulate the pieces, I couldn't figure out the problem -- and really didn't care to keep bashing my head against the bricks.

Bummer.

But it's important to experiment, to step out of one's comfort zone and take risks. Some will work and work well. Some will work in part, giving you material with which to cross-pollinate a more workable project. And others, unfortunately will be consigned to the permanent scrap heap

I'm thinking my last couple of weeks' work fall into that middle ground. There's something there, but either it's not ready, I'm not ready, or only part of it holds real potential. (Which part? Not quite sure yet.)

So how do you know when a new project's not quite right? Is there anything you can do to reinflate the balloon?

1 comment:

Joni Rodgers said...

Honestly, I never know. I have to follow my gut and ask myself honestly: "Is this where I want to live for the thousand hours it would take to write this book?"

It's hard, though, when an idea that should work...just doesn't work.

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