When I was a junior in High School, many moons ago, my best friend, Jeanette, and her boyfriend, John, decided that it would be a marvelous idea if I dated John’s best friend Mike. Then we could go on couple dates together—movies, skating, school dances! Yippee! Fun, huh?
In theory, the idea worked. Mike was super cute (hubba, hubaa) and we seemed to have a TON in common (okay, not really. We both played the clarinet in band and that was about it. Uber nerds, I know). So, under pressure, both Mike and I agreed to go steady.
From the very beginning, I knew that even though Mike was cute and played a mean clarinet, something wasn’t right. He was nice enough. He opened doors for me and paid for our dates. We talked on the phone at night and laughed and laughed, but whenever we were together, in person, everything became awkward and weird.
As a sixteen-year-old girl, I had no idea what was wrong. Everything looked right—he was cute, I was cute (if I do say so myself), we held hands, he went to a dance together—but something just didn’t mesh. The chemistry just wasn’t there. He was more like a brother to me. Our first and only kiss during our weeks of “dating” ended with him leaning in, missing my lips, and kissing my chin. I was standing on the porch step and so I figured that was the reason for the mishap, so I let it slide. No big deal. It happens. But I never pushed for a second kiss and he never offered. Not once.
After awhile of going on like this, we broke up with each other. It was a mutual decision. No hurt feelings. I think we were both actually quite relieved.
But our friends wouldn’t let it go. “You’re perfect for each other,” they’d say. “Look how cute your dance pictures are! Adorable!” And they nagged and hounded until we agreed to try it one more time.
It lasted only two weeks before we called it quits again, much to our friends dismay. Mike and I were always friendly to one another after that, but we no longer dated. It wasn’t until years later, that through the grapevine, I was told Mike was actually gay.
No wonder our relationship didn’t work.
On the surface, we looked like a happy couple. We looked like a typical girlfriend and boyfriend doing typical girlfriend and boyfriend things—except kissing and making out. But underneath all of that facade, we were both miserable. We were trying to be something we were not. No amount of peer pressure was going to make the relationship work.
How does any of this tie into writing, you may ask? Well, it ties in like this: Sometimes a story or storyline just doesn’t work and no matter how hard you try to make it.
This is where I am right now in my writing. The first draft of my zombie western romance book is done, and now I’m in the editing stages. Or, I should say, I thought I was in the editing stages. Actually, it’s more like a rewrite-the-whole-darn-thing-from-the-beginning-to-fix-plot-holes-and-amp-up-the-tension. And boy is it tough. It’s overwhelming to say the least.
I love the story. I’ve had a blast writing it, but there are problems with it that need corrected. There are story lines that just don’t work. I’ve had this pointed out by my critique group and they are right, darn them. My group gave me excellent ideas on how to ramp up the risk, and how to fix the story to make it more powerful.
The ideas are perfect, IF I can implement them correctly.
BUT, it’s going to be a ton of work. It won’t be easy at all and I like easy. Editing is one thing, rewriting is another, and it’s going to suck big time.
So, my book is floundering, just like a fish on the end of a hook. As I figure it, I have two options:
1) Remove the fish from the hook and slip it back into the water, set it free, and move on. There are other stories in my head begging to be written. I can put the zombie book to bed and start an entirely different story. Sometimes, that’s the best option.
2) OR, I can slip the fish from the hook, gut it, remove its bones, fry it up in a pan and serve it with tatar sauce and lemon juice. It will be delicious. I’m certain of it. But it will also be messy. Have you ever gutted a fish? It’s gross.
Depending on the day, I flip-flop between the two options. Sometimes I want to chuck the whole thing, give up, and at other times, I love my characters and their story too much to walk away. I know it can be fixed. I know it. I just want to whine about how tough it’s going to be.
So what do you do when part of your story doesn’t work? Do you put on your hardhat and get to work? Or do you whine like me and threaten to kill off all the characters and call the whole thing off?