D is for Doubt

Let’s face it, at the time of this writing, I’m an unsuccessful writer. If you are reading this blog, chances are good it’s because we know each other in some way. Maybe tangibly – you’re a friend, a coworker, or someone who’s been stuck talking to me. Maybe we just know each other online (I’m intermittently extroverted when I’m not busy clamming up and shutting down). I’ve written a few books, even self-published a few of them, but I can tell you straight up, I have had no secret success as a writer.

And yet, I continue to write. I write for the simplest reason of all – I enjoy trying to tell a story. Now sometimes, I tell a story and others enjoy it. Sometimes, I tell a story and everyone looks at me with a vague, glazed over stare that tells me that the story missed its mark somewhere.

I used to think that when I finished writing a novel, that was it, send it out. Why hold onto it at that point? I think it was that mentality that led me to self-publishing my books, and it was waking up from that mentality that put a pause on publishing.

Take my most recent novel (you’ll need to take my word on it). Titled A King’s Lament, it’s the story of a king who is haunted by the ghost of his lost love. So much so that he forsakes crown and kingdom to track down where she fled to 20 years ago, even though his country is just recovering from a war with the republic that invaded and subjugated the neighboring kingdom. Oh, and his brother is out to get him too, but he doesn’t know that at the start of the story.

Sounds great, right? Wait till you get to the midpoint climax and learn X and Y and realize Z. Then there’s the mad dash to try and avert more war and disaster with the dawning realization that he was set up to fail. And some of the things we thought we understood about the world? Just a misdirection we should have caught on to before.

Don’t worry about that being spoilerly. Even if I were to buckle and publish/submit it someday, that’s the back cover blurb material and doesn’t tell you much about the story.

When I finished the first draft a few months ago, I set it aside. Its something I’m struggling with but accept the value of. Set the story aside for a while, let it fester and ripen, then look at it again. And when I did that, what I found was a bland story. I’d tried to write it in the first person, but what came across was just a boring, haughty king traipsing around. I spent some time lamenting that myself, then decided I’d rewrite it in the third person.

But yeah, that’s when the first doubt started to creep in.

Undeterred, I set off and wrote the first 30k of the revised novel, a third of it new material. Things were going great, or at least, progressing, until the day I needed to take a break. When I came back after a day off, I look at what I had written and despaired. Doubt with a capital and bold D was settling in.

The problem is that the story is still….bland. Luthor isn’t particularly engaging, and what I’ve written feels more like a spicy travelogue than a novel. I find myself doubting this work altogether. This is my second attempt (well….something like my fifth, really, but who’s actually keeping track of all those draft versions besides me and dropbox…) and it still feels…meh.

A past me might have transitioned from Doubt to Despair at this point, but this is a new me. I see where the story is failing. I acknowledge that for whatever reason, now is not my time for telling this story. I have a few other stories incubating at the moment, departures from the kind of story I’ve been telling which in a lot of ways makes them all the more appealing. It’s supposed to be in the 100’s F this weekend- sounds like a great time to catch up on some Harrow County, read some books, and tinker with some ideas while avoiding the inferno outside.

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