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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

To Salvage a Project

As a writer, you are bound to come up with any amount of ideas. To paraphrase a certain game released within the last few years - "There are countless storylines and ideas, as numerous as the stars themselves". This is very true, and all too often these ideas can become lost in a deep mire of doubt and confusion, even becoming lost forever in the infinite chasms of your mind. Even for those you begin to put to paper, it's not always safe. You can find that, at some early or even advanced stage, you are presented with terrible problems which force you to shelve it. There are three fates awaiting such a work: recycling, deletion, or salvaging.

Recycling is a concept where some ideas from a project was rescued, but much of the narrative and even some of the characters you created around those ideas are lost. This is what happened with Crystal and Sin. I had an idea, of a group of five people heading into a ruined city to confront a mysterious power figure at the heart of a terrible cataclysm. This concept became the first two "chapters/episodes" of Crystal and Sin. But in the first draft, there were also elements such as the entire story taking place in that one location, Crystal and Sin themselves having psionic powers, and another female character with similar gifts also being with the party. In the end, this fifth main protagonist was dropped, and all references to anything remotely supernatural hit the cutting room floor - never to be recovered - and the storyline greatly expanded in scope. I had spent a month on the first draft, and after leaving alone for about two months last year, how to save it finally struck home, and I began again in haste.

Deletion, as the word suggests, is where something is just completely unworkable. No matter how many times you approach it, it's not going to work. Those are the moments when you need to step back, realize that this isn't the right thing to be doing. This happened a lot with my early work due to much of it being highly derivative. The work that springs to mind is a storyline that was called "Marduk's Redemption". Following a Mage facing against their former apprentice after they have turned into a Warlock, it was basically a fusion of elements from Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the anime film "Tales from Earthsea". Once I'd gotten to the 14th or 15th chapter, I realized that this wasn't the way to go. It was kind of an awakening for me, as I began making a special effort to move away from such derivative work. This means that, while the basic concept may still exist somewhere, "Marduk's Redemption" will never see the light of day.

Salvaging is the best possible solution for a work, but certain circumstances apply. The story has to be very strong, you may need to be quite early in development before you reach the point where you put the story down as with recycling or deletion. Salvaging, in its purest form, is where the story and concept are resurrected after a period of time where a previous form of the story proved unworkable. This is similar to recycling, but whereas recycling results in the greater majority of a story's original form is discarded, salvaging means that the greater majority of the story has been saved. The story that this applies to is "Calabaja", a science fiction picaresque novel. I tried to get this story of the ground twice before, and both times something prevented it. The main problem was that it was slipping into the "superhero" genre, a genre I don't like and can't work with. It's only with this third attempt that it's beginning to work, although that's only with me staying strenuously clear of stuff related to the superhero genre. And it appears to be working, so far.

Update - 08-10-2016: I've since decided that the above story is too similar to Crystal and Sin for me to continue working on it in good faith. I'm therefor returning it to store. A shame, but unavoidable.

These things are the kind of thing that people don't seem to communicate very well in other blog posts. I hope this will help other potential authors with these usual circumstances that can strike even the best-flowing work.

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