Shelving Your Opus

In early May of this year I decided, once again, that I would take another stab at writing a novel.

The story idea was the same one I had been trying, abandoning, revamping, revising, trying, and abandoning for the past seven years or so.

To say I’m enamored with it is a mild understatement. A female led epic fantasy, replete with angels, demons, magic, a meddling pantheon of gods, and a trope filled saving the world plot.

It’s my opus. And this time, I was sure I was going to get it right. I made it about 10,000 words.

Then I got sick, and writing became one of those things I just didn’t have the spoons for anymore. (Side note: I’m better now.)

In some ways, I’m grateful for the sudden, forced time away from my story. It helped me confront something I’d heard numerous times, but always endeavored to ignore.

It was time to put that story idea, the one that had consumed me yet failed to get written for seven years, on the shelf.

It’s been a few months since that difficult decision, and, honestly, it’s still hard to consider myself “moved on” from that project. I still have every intention of writing it one day, but the truth is it’s not the right novel to start with, no matter how long and how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise.

The main thing that finally persuaded me to shelve it was the timeworn advice that I’d heard ’round the writing internets ever since I started poking my head into the community, which is: your first novel will, most likely, be pretty bad. And, while part of me balks at that notion, the rational side realizes that it’s probably true. After all, despite the many thousands of words I poured into fanfiction in my younger years, I’m a complete novice at independent story craft. Writing convincing characters, with an interesting and cohesive plot, in a custom built setting, and doing it all well enough to attract the fame and fortune sweet summer writers often dream about is a big ask for a first timer, and, frankly I’m pretty certain I’m not up to that task.

I didn’t, and don’t, want my opus to go unread. I don’t want it to be the story that gets fifty nos before I give up on it with the teary realization that it’s inherently flawed. Of course, there’s no guarantee that won’t happen even if its the 15th novel I write, I’m under no illusions about that. But I know in my bones that I have a better shot at it succeeding if I get a little more experience under my belt, if I fail on some stories I don’t have the same emotional connection with.

The other thing that pointed me toward the realization that it was time to put it away was the fact that I had been laboring for so long over it, yet never quite found it’s formula. I can’t help but wonder if my continued obsession with it is what has been stalling me in launching a writing “career” all along. Already since putting it on the shelf a few scant months ago, I’ve nearly completed an outline for a story I’ve been giving less than half the thought for less than half the time. I’m in the best position of my life to actually finish a novel.

Can’t argue with results.

I still think about my opus all the time, even while working on my current project, to the point where I’m basically the distracted boyfriend meme. You know the one. But I’ve accepted the fact that it’s not right for me now, or even for the next project I plan to take on. It’s kind of freeing, actually, and I know that when it gets written it’ll be better than anything I could produce right now.

So thank you, writing internets, for helping me swallow that bitter pill. I hope to repay you with a really bitchin female led epic fantasy one day.

(PS, I know I’m using that word wrong, but you know what I mean.)

2 thoughts on “Shelving Your Opus

  1. I know how you feel! My first novel is much beloved and I began writing it with no idea. Not quite at the shelving stage, but working on other things and attempting to get better so I am up to the task one day. Hope you get to tackle it again one day.


  2. Pingback: The One Where I Use the Word “Fantasy” A Lot – Just Another Struggling Writer

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