With Bear of the Midnight Sun (pre-order now!) in the editor's hot little hands, I started on another story that my imagination has been chewing on for the last month or so. It didn't go well. Perhaps I began writing too soon after completing the last manuscript. Perhaps my brain's just tired. Perhaps ... oh, who cares why.
The upshot is that the initial dozen pages sucked. It was trite. Cliched. Ugh. I wrote my protagonists into a corner that I didn't like. So, mulling over the story premise, I tried again. I wrote a new beginning to lead to the point at which the story sparked in my imagination. It's better, but still not where I want it to be because it's headed down that same direction that I still don't want. So, I set the story aside.
I'll let my subconscious chew on it for a while and see that it spits out, if anything. Now that the idea has been exorcised from my brain, perhaps it needs no further attention. Perhaps that idea was just a clog in the creativity pipeline.
That isn't the first time I've done this and it won't be the last.
Most writers call such clogs writer's block. They agonize over these obstacles, reluctant to part ways with the content already written as though the words were made of gold. They cling to their prose and refuse to annihilate the hours of work and effort that went into producing a subpar manuscript because they believe that such effort validates what must be wondrous prose.
Let me give you some advice: It ain't so. Just because you sweated blood over your manuscript doesn't mean that it's any good.
That doesn't mean that craptastic story, finished or not, has no value. Even though it's utter garbage it has something to teach you. The value is in what you learn from it. The value lies in how you use what you learn to improve your writing and storytelling. The value does not rest in the manuscript itself, because it sucks.
I'm a damned good writer, but I recognize substandard writing when I produce it. No writer can honestly claim immunity. I'm sure even William Shakespeare wrote material that never saw the light of day or deserved to.
So, I'll let my brain rest and focus on other things for a while. Tomorrow I'm headed to the All American Quarter Horse Congress to look at the beasties, admire all the glittery stuff, drool over the fancy horse trailers, and buy a helmet. I may even take a few weeks off writing for myself. My subconscious might indeed spit something out that's worth pursuing on that story. Then again, it might not. I won't touch the story again unless it sparks my imagination once more.
Sometimes an author must abandon a manuscript. That takes strength and courage, because the author must admit failure and that admission always stings.
However, setting that blockage aside allows the flow of creativity to resume. So, it's not all bad. Who knows? That next idea might be the big one. I can only hope.