When to let a story die

Here’s an interesting post by P J Parrish at Kill Zone Blog: When is it time to let a story idea die?

We have a special First Page Critique to talk about today. Because I think it is a splendid example of a question all writers have to ask themselves at one time or another: When it is time to let go of a bad story? I’ll be back in a second with my comments. First, here’s our submission: …

First page follows.

Then, as you might have expected, this reveal:

Okay, I’m messing with you here. This is an opening for one of my own books, unpublished. Kelly and I wrote this (in fact, we wrote the entire 367-page manuscript) years ago, when we were well along into our Louis Kincaid series. We wanted to try our hand at a female protag and a style that was lighter and humorous. Also, Kelly had decades of experience in the Nevada casino business and we figured we couldn’t go wrong.

Wrongo, keno-breath.

We couldn’t sell this book to save our souls. 

Following, an interesting discussion of what the authors decided had gone wrong and the factors they considered when deciding whether to press on or let it go.

Interesting tidbits from the post:

Sometimes, bad ideas can birth new life. Michael Chabon abandoned his novel titled Fountain City after 1,500 pages, but then used it as inspiration for his fabulous Wonder Boys. John Cheever wrote 150 pages of a novel called The Swimmer, then decided it was better as a 12-page short story.

I am still blinking at both of these examples. Wow.

Granted, my original unpublishable 1500 page trilogy was the one I turned into Winter of Ice and Iron and The White Road of the Moon.

I will note in passing, but in boldface, that the hardcover of White Road has been marked down to $4.99 on Amazon, half the price of the Kindle ebook. Don’t know whether that will last, but just in case you’re interested.

Anyway, I can think of one half-completed (or, given that I write long, 1/3 completed) manuscript that I have on my hard drive that I really think is terrible. It’ll never go anywhere. I like one specific plotline that I could totally pull out and use for something else someday, but as for the rest of it, I might as well delete the 150 pages or whatever now.

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