Friday, April 1, 2011

A to Z Challenge: Abandoned Ideas

Hi all, before I start, I quickly want to do some admin. On M-day (15 April), I will be doing a post on how I draw maps. At first, I thought of redrawing my map, but then I realized that that would be reinventing the wheel.

So! Any fantasy writers out there who lack the artistic skill/desire to draw a map can contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Just make sure that you have MAP as your topic so that I can enter you into the draw randomly. Please note, it's for e-mail entries only. No comments to the effect please, as I don't want to struggle with making contact with the winner on the eighth.

OK... admin done...

Let's start with A-Day.

Most people start writing in school with those dratted 100 word essays and projects. Most people don't enjoy it, but there are always the exception. Writers.

We fortunate few love writing and burst onto new ideas and stories with indescribable passion.

We fall in love with the story idea. We love and hate characters. We build scenarios and stories.

And... then we realize that it sucks.

Or that there's a plot hole so massive that it is easier to stop writing than to go back to fix it.

Or (my personal worst), we lose that spark that makes us want to finish the novel.

What happens then? Well... Sometimes we fight for it, trying our best to salvage the story we loved once. Other times, we give up and store away the idea/story for later or forever.

A waste of time, right?


Oh so very very wrong. You see, there was a time that you loved writing your story. It made you happy. That alone makes sure that your time spent writing the ms can never be seen as a waste.

Then, there's the fact that nothing you've written goes away. It's there for as long as you keep it. In my opinion, that makes it an asset. You can still draw value out of that ms if you work at it long enough. Didn't you do research for that story that you could use for another, better story? Didn't you work out the characterisation/world rules that you can use in a new, shiny version of the book you binned? Isn't there a scenario that you created in that book that sparks a better idea? Or would that plot hole not be easier solved by writing a prequel?

Why not? That's the thing about creative minds. We can use anything to inspire a story.

And then, if in the likely event that your story really has nothing to offer you, there is an intangible value to that ms that outstrips everything else:

You learned.

I believe that writing is one of those few things that you have to teach yourself. Yes, you can go take lessons and ask advice, but whether anything that is said is of application on you, depends only on yourself. Every person's style and method is different. So, the only way to learn the art of writing is by trial and error.

I learned that the number one cause of my stories' souls dying was over-editing first draft. So after I finally decided to learn something from my "failures", I started drafting pen to paper. Kills premature self-edits dead. Guaranteed.

There are hundreds of other things that I learned from previous failed/stopped drafts, but I won't go into them now, because it will probably mean next to about 99% of you.

But I think my point is made. Those ideas you abandoned were not a waste of time. One way or the other, they added value to your life as a writer.

Even if it just opened your mind a little to the possibility of becoming a writer.

That alone, made it invaluable.

So... How many attempts did you go through before hitting on your current idea? Can you think of ways that your old ideas helped you?


  1. Two years of writing until I found the character's voice. Didn't like her in the first and second draft so I changed her a little and the plot.

    I've done the similar thing with my second novel. However, it was a character inviting in two other characters that changed things but we kept the plot somewhat the same.

    Hope that made sense.

  2. I've gone through about a 1000 ideas before I got super excited about one. All those other ideas are still waiting, in the back of my mind. They could take over any day now! LOL, nice to meet you! I found you through the A to Z!

  3. This is an excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly! I don't think it's ever a waste of time to hone your craft or exercise your creativity, even if it doesn't turn into a masterpiece every time. And I sometimes "cannibalize" ideas from a dead project to a new one, where it works better. I am currently working on a book that rose from the ashes of an abandoned project.

  4. I'm open; Nice to meet you! I look forward to hearing more from you~ Enjoy A-Z, it is Amazing!

  5. I have more ideas than I care to even think about else I will get lost in them. Focusing on just one is the hard part for me. My current and just about finished work stems from an idea that goes back all the way to like 1976-77!

  6. I had this idea, then my computer crashed and my first/only four pages were lost. This has been 2 years ago now, and I still think of the story so much (so it isn't abandoned really) but each time I try to start it again, it's just not good.

  7. Thank you for the visit and lovely comment, sad you're unable to get the books where you are.

    This was a great start to the challenge for you, I really enjoyed reading it. Good luck with the other 25 letters,


  8. An inspirational post. I never throw anything that I've written away and in truth, they're always there at the back of my mind!

  9. Hi Misha!
    I may toss characters aside for one story and come back to them years later on another project. But people-watching always gives me new ideas.

  10. Mine is still evolving and probably won't stop until revision is done. I keep a notebook and write down flashes of ideas in it so I can go back later for new stories or just inspirations for my current one. See ya

  11. I usually get a spark that turns into flames and burns the entire process. Sometimes I think I lack the ability to see when my W.I.P is really just smoke.

  12. what a greaat way to start the A to Z challenge. I look forward to more of your posts

  13. I have a failed draft collecting dust on the shelf, but I loved the experience of writing what I did and exploring those characters. This post definitely resonated with me!

  14. Great topic! Usually I give my ideas a couple of rounds (2 or 3). I attempted my current novel about 4 times, in various forms. With old ideas, I sometimes incorporate them as subplots or mix new characters into new novels.

  15. I've been working on the same idea in many different incarnations since 8th grade I think.

    Alex from Breakfast Every Hour was here.

  16. Oh my, sometimes I go through a dozen (or more) attempts before landing on the final idea. I think that's the fun part though! I love sifting through my imagination and seeing what's in there. :)

  17. So true. No time spent with a ms is wasted. Lessons abound us everyday as we write. My 2nd novel (after a few rounds of editing) got very encouraging attention, almost signed twice actually. But neither panned out. I'm not rewriting the beginning. I also have two picture books that I'm hoping to send out into the world, soon. (One of which, I know it might sound odd with a picture book, but I had to rewrite it several times to get it right.)

    I'm a follower now. Great to meet you.

  18. Great post! It's so true that everything we write, no matter what becomes of it, helps us grow as a writer and learn new things.

    My current story (which, when I started it, was my fifth novel) hit me right after I finished NaNoWriMo 2009. It came to me as something completely different--it was going to be a very lighthearted, fun story. Ha. Now it's...not. It's deep and has some very dark things happen to characters.

  19. Too true! Some days my head feels like an overstuffed attic of ideas!

  20. We can always learn from "abandoned" ideas.

  21. Life is full of learning experiences!

    I've lost track of how many ideas I've abandoned. It's easier for me to walk away from a short story idea than a novel, since there's less investment.

  22. Edison tried over a thousand different things before he found the right combination to make the incandescent lightbulb work. Then he was still able to edit his idea further and make it better.

  23. I get new ideas quote often. Sometimes they need to simmer on the backburner for a while and sometimes their ready to go right out of the box. You just never know.

  24. Very nice post, it reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with my mom on publishing houses. I said there were probably hundreds of stories out there that never reached the readers due to constant discouragement. Sometimes we just have to try, & try again. In the end it is worth the struggle, we'll appreciate it more. =)

  25. No being a writer I can't answer your question nor understand the concept. But writing posts everyday can drive a person nuts. Sometimes I go through a half dozen ideas before I can settle on a top that I think is interesting, informative, and inspirational.

    Gregg Metcalf
    Colossians 1:28-29

    Gospel-driven Disciples

  26. Great post. The more we write the better we become. That is the nature of the beast.

  27. I'm in line with what Gregg said. Or ... I'm just not willing to admit how many balls of paper I go through!

    Happy A2Z!

  28. Just like with an abandoned property, there's always pieces you can salvage from a manuscript. I know that with the one idea I've cast aside (so far), I'll be extricating the two main characters and dropping them into an entirely new scenario.

    Writing's never a waste. Although some readers of my blog might disagree...

  29. My thoughts exactly. I don't believe any writing is ever wasted - it's all about learning.

  30. Hi Misha .. we've always learnt from something abandoned - though at the time don't realise it .. as you say - cheers Hilary

  31. I always wanted to do a fantasy for m/g or y/a and I wrote the first in a series two years ago. I am now on the final chapter of the final edit. What a LEARNING experience.

    My second novel... y/a contemporary came to me in a dream and I went from there.

    I have a few more read throughs to polish it up. NOTHING like my first.

    Then back to book two in my fantasy series... Always busy Misha. LOL

  32. Great post!

    I didn't go through that many attempts at the idea I'm working on now--it did change in that it was originally only going to be a a single scene and then exploded into something else, once I got to know the MC.

  33. This is a great post. I think we're all hoping for a shortcut, but really you just have to keep writing to get better!

    It works for my jewelry designs, too. I'll make tons of sketches, but only design a few of those pieces that really speak to me. Sometimes I'll take necklaces apart and reuse a few beads in something new.

  34. been scribbling most of my life lost count of the ideas or half started stories from my childhood. As an adult only one has been put away and now 12 yrs later thinking it could be resurected so when WIP is at the printers I may ... maybe...

  35. That was a long post, but I'm glad I read through. I keep notes of my ideas and who knows when they might come in useful?

  36. I never met an idea I didn't like and there's the rub! I just immediately start new books but I don't shelve the old ones...hmmm.
    great post - thanks! Jan Morrison

  37. Cool! Maps!

    I don't usually start writing until I've planned the books in great detail but it's a process nonetheless.

  38. I have what I cll the Junkyard where ai stor pieces and parts for future use. When I approach a section of the MS and I'm stumped, I can search through my Junkyard and usually find something I can plug right in.

  39. i write epic fantasy as well. nice to meet you. and nice post. i keep all my stories whether they work out or not. either i'll use them somewhere else or they were practise.

    beautiful chaos

  40. i forgot to say, 1, that i'm a new follower, and 2, i had a friend in college who called me Misha.

    beautiful chaos

  41. Oh, yeah, Misha, I've had stories with ten times as much rejected material as finished material. I had a book that went through MULTIPLE rewrites before I found the shape of it. But you're right--nothing is ever lost. All the work I did that I didn't use is still in my head. Some of my deleted material goes into a "random bits" file that I can raid for stuff for other pieces.

    Great post!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  42. It took me almost 2 years to get to know my main character. She is fully fledged now. :)

    Great post! Thought provoking!

  43. Well said, misha! I don't think I've ever abandoned ideas- I just gently set them aside until I find another use for them. Good luck in your A-Z!


  44. Just popped over from the challenge and I feel so much better...I just got another rejection letter and was having a pity party. Thanks for the pick-me-up. Blessings, Joanne

  45. Great post! I agree. I don't think that any of my old ideas are wasted. In need of some serious revision, or just need to be recycled, yes, but not wasted. I killed my first book with over-editing the first draft while writing the first draft. I became so discouraged that I focused on poetry, and short story writing. Many ideas seemed to beg for something longer, and finally last fall, I wrote a rough draft for NaNoWriMo. Now, I'm neck deep in revision, and I don't want to give up. I want these characters that are stuck in my head to live, and breathe in someone else's imagination too.

  46. Excellent points about learning from failed manuscripts. Even if they never get finished into completed novels, there is always something to learn about them...perhaps one had great characterization but a terrible plot, maybe another had the exact opposite problem. The trick is to learn and take the best lesson you can from each piece you write.

    I'm now following, and I can't wait to see more of your A-Z entries!


  47. I'm still working on my first major idea, developing the voice has been my goal the last 12 months. Abandoned ideas, I've got a few in the queue. ;-)

  48. Really fantastic advice. I'd not thought of some of those things....kinda makes me feel better!

  49. Holy cow I'm the 50th comment. Boy I guess we know who's popular today.

    Anyways, I love your idea for overediting and I think I'll give it a try. Plus the whole map thing is really intriguing. I've no idea how to begin with a map. I'll be looking forward to see how you do it.

  50. So enjoyed reading this post. I'm just now learning how to put my fictional thoughts into words. I can blog all day long about the events around me. It's the coming up with 'stories' that's a bit difficult. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. Looking forward to reading your posts. Happy Friday! :o)

  51. Current idea? It smacked me in the head several years ago!

  52. I don't ever totally abandon an idea, I just tuck them away in a notebook, or a box or file somewhere just in case they make better sense later. Nice start for the challenge.

    Contrary to my usual practice of subscribing to comments, to save time during challenge I will not be doing so during April. If you want to respond to my comment , please email me directly from your email notification for the comment.

    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  53. Excellent post and great comments given. There were many things that I needed to hear right now. Thanks!

    Reviewer & Writer
    Book reviews and Author Interviews at my blog at

  54. Ooooh... lots of comments to answer.

    Shelly, I did that too. In fact, some of my main characters changed drastically as I moved from cancelled version to first draft to rewrite. Or maybe I just understand them better?

    Nice to meet you too, Rebecca. I also have ideas that hit me randomly, which is why I have three Works in Progress. I put the other two on ice until I finish the rewrite for Doorways. :-)

    Thanks, Sarah! I canabilize too and used the idea I had for one historical and updated it for my current version. I will definitely get to it when I finish my rewrite. :-)

    Ella, can't wait to see more of your posts either. :-)

    Bish, I know the feeling. I came to the point where I asked my muse to just leave the new ideas alone for a while, so that I could finish Doorways. Your story must be wonderful, if it stuck with you for so long. :-)

    Allison, I lost books too. Actually, the same story. Twice. I'm now writing it again, and I'm sort of thankful for the crashes now, because the work I'm doing now is doing the story better justice than I did when I started them at thirteen. :-) If I maybe so presumptuous to make a suggestion, please please please just keep writing past the start. Sometimes you need to grow into the story first before you get to the good stuff.

    Thanks Yvonne! Good luck with your challenge.

    Thanks Ellie. That's the best place to keep them. :-)

    Bob I also people watch for my ideas. It's awesome. :-D

    Lisa, I also carry a notebook with me to write ideas that flood my mind and prevent me from writing what I need to write. :-)

    Hahaha Em, the good thing is that you'll have to finish your book to see. That's pretty good incentive if you ask me. ;-)

    Thanks, Baygirl! (I promise I'll go find out your real name. But if I do that now, I'll lose all my comments. And that will be tragic.) :-)

    I'm glad, Nicole. Most of my old drafts collect dust in old computers, but luckily I have them in my mind too. :-)

    Karen, two of my three Works in Progress started as characters that walked into my head and hijacked my creative thoughts. It's been one hell of a trip. ;-)

    Nia, I did that too. Some of those original ideas even go into the sequels. :-)

    Wow Alex. So you must know the story like the palm of your hand. :-)

    Laura M, I love that sifting too. It's the one thing I miss about writing first drafts. There's just so much to explore.

    Thanks for the follow, salarsen (will get your name too.) I wish you success with all the projects that you're busy with. :-)

    Thanks Laura J! The same happened with Doorways. It sort of started as Narnia with a badass and ended up as something plenty darker. In fact, I'm not sure what I can compare it to anymore. :-)

    Thanks Su! I feel like that too. And all of them shout and clamor for attention. ;-)

    Absolutely, Ann B.

    So true, Sandra. Short stories feel quicker, so it doesn't feel as painful to walk away from them. In fact, Doorways took over so much space in my creativity that I stopped writing short stories years ago. :-)

    True Budd. His success was due to his determination as much as his genius. :-)

    That's true, Luana. Mark Twain put Huck Finn on the back burner for years and it turned out so much better than Tom Sawyer. :-)

    Tiger, that is so true. It's our struggles that makes something worth achieving.

    Greg, sometimes picking the right topics can be very tricky, so I know how you must feel. :-)

    I agree with you there, Ann. :-)

    Haha Trevor. I would love it if you gave me a rough idea. ;-)

  55. Hahaha Nate, I love your blog, so I doubt those words ever go wasted. I think that an abandoned house is a great analogy. :-)

    So true, Talli. :-)

    Hi Hilary. It's sad how many people lose hope just because they fail to see all that they learned from their failed attempt. I just hope they try again and realize it. :-)

    Michael, I can imagine that edits are something else entirely. The idea is still a little scary to me.

    Golden, I love it when that happens. Something similar happened to me once, with one story I wrote, but I was busy with something else at the time. One day I will get back to it, though. :-)

    Michelle M, I've found that in writing, no short cut works as well as actually writing. In fact, I think that a lot of those short cuts end up getting people lost. :-)

    Alberta, I hope it comes out better if you do resurrect it.

    Good idea, Myne. I tend to just store the ideas in my mind. :-)

    Jan, I also did that at one stage, but I realized how little I was getting done in any of the works, so I put the others on hold until I finished Doorways.

    Clarissa, I used plot extensively, but plotting for Doorways made my heart sink, so I stopped. It's been working for me. ;-P

    Stephen, I think I might steal the junkyard idea. That way, I can call up all the random ideas I ever had. Hmm...

    Michelle G, people call me Michelle by mistake. Nice to meet you too, reverse namesake. ;-)

    Marian, rewriting so many times must have taken a lot of patience! Salut. :-)

    Sylvia, it took me the entire first draft to know my characters. And then I still did interviews and stuff to get to know them better. And now they're coming to spots where they're starting to change. :-D

    Nut, that's a great way of looking at it.

    Thanks Joanne. I'm glad if I managed to help in some way. :-)

    Tyrean, I've also killed stories like that. That's why I don't edit until I've finished my drafting. :-)Don't give up! I know one day your characters will come to life in the imaginations of others.

    So true, Sarah A. I learned that way. :-) Thanks for the follow.

    Talei, voice is a challenge! Good luck. :-)

    I'm glad if I could help. Crafter. :-)

    Michael, I feel like the homecoming queen. ;-) Give the notebooks and pen thing a try. It worked for me, and I got to the point where I loved writing like that.

    Seams, writing about the things you are experiencing now is an excellent way to learn how to write fiction. Art should imitate life, after all. ;-)

    Diane, that happened to me too once. That idea will be worked on later this year. :-)

    Lee, that is a good point. A lot of work we do now will only really make sense later. Can't explain why though. I guess our minds are faster than we are. ;-) By the way, I would love to send e-mails in response to comments, but I don't know how.

    Sheila, glad to help. Thanks for stopping by!

  56. So pleased to meet you through the A - Z Challenge, and I very much enjoyed the thoughts you shared here. I've always believed the only way to learn how to write is simply to write. Of course, we know it can be anyting but simple on occasion. I've been blogging for about a year and find that the support of online friends is really motivational. I'll visit again soon...

    Inspiration Lane

  57. Lynette, nice to "meet' you too. I also find the blogging community to be very motivational. I'll drop by your blog sometime today. :-)


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