Writing Tips: Know when to walk away
This is the story of The Wraith.
What the heck is The Wraith? The Wraith is a supernatural suspense/horror novel I wrote about a year or two ago. It's right here on my computer, in my drive, fully written in first draft form. It is, however, a novel that I have no intention of releasing anytime soon.
You see, this is the thing I think young authors should understand. Sometimes, you have to be your own harshest critic and if you are going to be a self-published author, you need to put out top notch, high quality work. If you don't, it dilutes the pond. I know, because there was a time I was big in the dilution of things (some say I still am, but I digress).
I wrote The Wraith with excitement and was really enjoying it, at first. It's another story set in the fictional town of Knorr, PA, and it involves a family moving into a new house. One night, the teenage son hears a very ghostly train whistle, but knows there's no train near him. He ventures into the woods behind the house and find an old, abandoned train station and overgrown train tracks. The sounds of the train whistle get louder. Then weird things start happening in the house and then around town. Strange things, people start getting angry and attacking each other. Monsters that exist only in myth, become real.
It sounds like the train is getting closer and closer. At the same time, the novel tells the story of a man who discovers a substance from another dimension that seems to allow those who touch it to teleport. He decides the best test is to see if he can get a train to transport through the alternate dimension, but gets corrupted by the forces on the other side. The train is called The Wraith, but the experiment nearly lets a horrific other-dimensional monster through.
It ended up, as I wrote it, to contain many of the same ideas and some of the same characters as The Man From Taured. It became a companion piece to that novel. However, it soon became obvious it was going to be a very long novel. I had an entire town as my cast of characters and introduced so many characters at the beginning it became unwieldy.
Then another thing happened. I suddenly had the idea for the novel Storyland. As I tried to work on both Storyland and The Wraith, it soon became obvious that the story that was going to work better and that dominated my imagination was Storyland. I soon put The Wraith aside and focused on Storyland, with the intention of coming back to the former. However, when I finished Storyland, it was like The Wraith had left me. The muse was gone.
So, I forced it. I drew it to a close, but it was a painful process. It was hard to finish and I drew it to a close too fast. When I finished, I sent it to a Beta reader only to tell him to abandon it. I realized I had introduced characters at the start of the book, and then forgot about them by the time I got to the end. The story was a mess. It was going to take far too long to fix.
So, there it sits. Abandoned. Sad. Quite like the haunted train station in the novel itself. I have this idea I can come back to it at some point and fix it, but right now, it is just not there.
Sometimes you need to know that, too. As a writer, sometimes we get so caught up in our work, we cannot see past it. Despite the problems, we cannot abandon that novel and that thing we created for so long. We push it and push it, and that means bad work gets out into the public.
Sometimes you have to trust your gut. I have been asked: have you ever started something and then abandoned it? I have done that, but I have also done more. I have completed an entire first draft of a novel only to decide it was not worth salvaging.
Know yourself. Know what you can do. Be tough on yourself. Do not be afraid to walk away. Even from an entire novel.