There’s one true, irreplaceable principle in business: fail fast.
It means that you must be able to identify failures as early as possible. Persevering in the wrong direction is just dumb, so if you can stop and say, “wait, this is not going the way I thought it would,” then you have a chance to correct your course, or even quit doing what you are doing.
Today I discovered that this is also applies when writing stories.
I have spent the past several weeks plotting and writing the first draft of what I considered my next novel. I was almost through chapter 6 when something happened.
- I ground to a halt. I could only write a few paragraphs per day, and it was increasingly more difficult moving the story forward. My fingers just failed to produce meaningful words.
- My protagonist was being dragged around by events and her decisions were not really hers. A main character that is 99% passive is maybe fine at the beginning of a story, but if it still is in chapter 6… well, that’s not good.
- The plot didn’t hold. As the plot I originally outlined turned into action, dialog and descriptions, sentence after sentence, I grew bored with it, and it gradually looked weaker than I thought.
Truth be told, I liked the setting. It was gloomy and decadent, just like I wanted it to be. Additionally, I liked one of the secondary characters. A lot.
I tried reworking the story structure, but I figured that the concept I had in mind, while it could still get me excited, was not solid enough to sustain the weight of an entire novel.
Hard decision to make, but I killed the project. Despite it was dreading to watch almost two months of work going down the drain, I could not see it going any further.
Fail fast, and go back to the whiteboard. Of course, I will cannibalize the good parts in the next endeavor – or perhaps I will get back to the story in a few months.