Yesterday, I decided to kill off a novel.
Project RC, begun in late 2011, abandoned mid-edit in February 2012, has been officially retired.
Ninety thousand words, a bundle of characters, settings, challenges. A plot that wove between them all less like a hessian sack and more like a bucket of beansprouts. I even had a cover. One I was pleased with.
Deciding to abandon all thoughts of reviving the story has lifted a weight off my writing wrist, freeing my creative mind to look for other stories. Better tales. Fascinating characters, some of whom I like.
I feel like I’ve made a big step in terms of writing progress.
I’ve learned that I’m better at writing novels when I have a structure, and characters I know, and a definite sense of time and place.
When I went back to review this project all I saw was another six months of editing the story, staring at maps of Eurasia, finding better places to set the story and blending those into the words I already had, and trying to work out who my characters thought they wanted to be.
Sure, there were some beautiful passages, some ‘darlings’ I was pleased with:
His little psalmbook had become pulp in the humidity and was no use for even lighting fires, yet he kept it, squeezing the water out occasionally and wondering if he should drink the liquid to save the ink, which had so recently told God’s words, and perhaps maintained some element of holiness within.
At that point, he realised he was growing mad.
In midsummer the nights seemed endless and when he travelled with the monks into the blue-topped mountains on a pilgrimage he saw the stars disrupted by some shimmering, shifting wave that shook pale green across the sky, drifting like sand across a dry riverbed in the deserts east of Aleppo, rippling like the dusting of snow that skittered over the steppe and sung of desolation.
Perhaps the story of a nomadic monk caught between the Black Death and the Mongol Invasion of Europe will resurface at some point in the future, but if it does, as the old joke goes it won’t start from here.
In the meantime, I have other work to do.
Look out for a novel in June.