Facts of Life,  Lists,  Mini Rants,  Writing Journey

Mountain of Story Trash

The shelved stories…(dramatic pause) I think about mine sometimes when I can’t sleep, in the hopes that I’ll eventually lull my overactive brain into dream land or learn something from them. Sometimes I think, “What are my reasons for trashing stuff?” Surely there is a method to the madness. Yes. I would like to pick up the mic and present you with this monologue I wrote to explain. 🙂

Back in the day, no one looked at me cross-eyed when I trashed something. Very rarely, someone might say, “Hey, what happened with that story you were writing about the time traveler?” And I’d be like, “What?…Oh, yeah! Dude, no, I gave up on that months ago. It like didn’t have a plot or whatever, but listen to this!” Otherwise, most of the time, they had no idea if I was talking about the same story or not.

Nowadays, there exists a person or two who might say something like, “Why are you starting something new? What happened to the story you were editing?” And I’m like, “I trashed that. It sucks….why are you looking at me like that?”

On one hand it’s like: Everything can’t suck! Some of it MUST be in my head? But on the other hand it’s like: well…some of them really do suck. And with the state of the publishing industry, you have to love something a whole lot if you’re going to make it in any capacity. There isn’t an easy route to this thing. There’s blurb writing and querying and rejection and submissions and rejections and reviews and rejections and marketing and rejections. If I don’t love the story enough to suffer for it, isn’t it better I bail now then wish I had bailed later?

So, here is my top ten list of reasons why Krystal trashes perfectly good stories (ahem):
número uno: the concept is terrible. sometimes there is nothing you can do. it’s like when you have a plant with diseased roots – you just have to dig it up and throw out the entire plant.
número dos: poor planning. i’m a planner. i can’t run away from it. poor planning will lead to all kinds of gratuitous, gross, and heinous problems.

numéro trois: i started the story too soon and now i realize i don’t like it so much anymore or ruined it because it wasn’t ready.
numéro quatre: i’m having to force myself to finish it or i had to force myself to finish it. never a good sign.

numero cinque: i’m tired of writing about vampires and/or some other device I’m overusing and would desperately like to write about something else.
numero sei: the story is making me miserable.

nummer sieben: the story is a lost cause and just isn’t working – for whatever reason.
nummer acht: the characters are a pain to work with. no. thank. you. characters are a penny a dozen.

number nine: i was just writing the story because i was bored and/or wanted something productive and purposeful to do while my brain finds me a story i actually want to write.
number ten: i over-outlined due to ill confidence in the story and stuck too it too rigidly to said outline because i didn’t really want to write the story in the first place for whatever reason and now the story sucks because it’s too flat and colorless and one-dimensional.

There – all perfectly legitimate reasons to bail. 🙂 It may look like I’m sometimes bordering on perfectionism, but really, I just want to write something that I love and feel good about putting out into the world. A lot of writers have entertaining ideas, great ideas, and even freakishly amazing ideas. But not everything is exciting AND well-written. And that is where I want to be.

I’m just cocky enough to think I have the well-written part down. 😉 My problem is that I rush things because I get impatient and force things when I’m stuck because I’m afraid of setting the story aside while I think and never picking it back up again. (This happens all the freaking time!) This has to change if I’m going to write anything good. Not to say that I haven’t written anything good, because I believe I have. And I have those stories as my means of comparison when deciding if I should shelve something or not. I just want to stop writing things that make me feel like I suck and need to quit because that is no fun at all.

I try to learn from everything. Between this year and last year, I learned that I mess a lot of stories up when I put too much pressure on myself – usually with some kind of crazy time restraint or by comparing myself to too many other people. I also learned that I cannot pants a story. I don’t need a fully formed or completed outline before I start, but I do need a good GPS to keep me on track. 🙂

I admit, sometimes I’m just looking for a reason to dump a story I don’t want to deal with anymore. On those, I am making excuses. And I am totally okay with that. If I’m looking for a reason to dump a story, I just need to dump it and get it over with. Whatever will help me move on. Because I don’t make excuses when I’m crazy about something. (#sentencefragmentsarethebest)

Making mistakes is okay. Making the same ones over and over again is not. Once is once, but twice or more is a pattern.

(drops mic) 😛


  • Tonja Drecker (@TDrecker)

    If we only had a penny for every story started…okay, maybe a dollar. I usually get to around 10K, realize something’s not working and toss it to the side Some have gone to a ‘later’ shelf just because I love the ideas but there are still some problems which require more mental stewing. All these unfinished MSs are part of the writing process–each one a learning tool. (At least, that’s what I keep telling myself). And just because a story’s been shelved doesn’t mean parts of it won’t suddenly pop up later in other MSs-wording, scenes, characters. The trick is not to fall into the habit of shelving everything. There comes a time in all MSs where I can’t stand my characters or feel like everything’s all wrong. That’s when I take a break or bug my CPs. Usually, the problem isn’t nearly as big as I thought it was, or I was just freaking myself out (I do that a lot). I’m rambling because I tend to toss everything aside too, especially the last two years. The fact is, the only way to publish something is to write it. That’s my new motto for the next months 😉

    • Krystal Jane

      I tend to realize things are not working around the 10k to 20k mark. I definitely don’t want to start shelving everything! It does start to get ridiculous. I would love to know how many stories JK Rowling has shelved…if any. Lol!

  • Michelle Tran (@michelletwrites)

    I like Tonja’s 10K advice. I think if you get past 51% of the story thoughh, you need to finish it. I understand your reason for number 4, but if you are in too deep, you gotta finish it because it gets you into the habit of getting things done instead of quitting mid story. So checkmarks, getting to 10K. Nice! Getting past 51% of the plot, finish it 🙂

    • Krystal Jane

      I rather not quit a few chapters from the end like I did on something a couple of years ago, o.O but I actually decided to stop forcing my way through things that aren’t working anymore. It’s kind of my way of helping my brain figure out the problem, if I want to work on it bad enough.

  • Crystal Collier

    You know, that’s pretty much how I feel with EVERY first draft, but I’ve learned something about myself and my writing. In order to go forward, the first 20 to 60 pages MUST be perfect. Having just that much right gives me that burning love to keep going. I’ll spend months just working on that beginning while ideas percolate for the rest of the novel, and by the time I have the beginning just right, I’m so in love with the characters and where they’re going that the rest of the story just comes. (And yes, I hate most of it for 80% of that process, until I get toward the final FINAL edits.)

  • Sunflower Michelle

    I try not to shelve too much, at least in the last few years. I’ve basically realized that there comes a time when I’ll hate what I’m writing and I can either pause and figure out what’s bothering me and fix it before I move on or dump it. I wish my first drafts were clean and didn’t need so much futzing, but they do and if I’m ever going to publish again, then I need to get stuff done.

    • Krystal Jane

      There always comes a time when I hate my story, for sure, but not usually when I’m writing it. I’m mostly talking about stuff I have finished and didn’t want to pick up again, though. Because I have so many finished stories, stopping the cycle of suck is more important than finishing, right now.

  • Karla

    If I can’t get more than 20 pgs in, I usually stop. Otherwise, I go until I reach the finish line.
    Lol. I love how you counted in different languages. 🙂

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