You know that angel story we never finished? Yeah, don’t. And stop angsting about it. Seriously, you don’t know this now, but we end up letting it make us crazy for the next 10 years—get over yourself now and save us a lot of worry lines. We’ll be prettier when we’re my age.
I know, I know, you’re all But I’ve got, like, 80K words! I can’t just let them sit there! but yes, yes you can. In fact, you should. There is such a thing as authenticity in plot and character evolution—stop rolling your eyes at me, it’s a real thing!—and it may be difficult to recognize it and define it when you’re looking at it, but you know when it’s not there, even if you don’t know what’s missing. You’ve read—and subsequently very quickly forgotten—enough books with cookie-cutter plots and 2-dimensional characterizations by now to understand why you even write in the first place, so don’t try to force something because you can’t get past your own impatience and the sometimes unreasonable things you expect of yourself.
Also, that disk we save it on and subsequently guard with our lives for the next 15 years or so? Yeah, just take a hammer to it now. We don’t need it. Anything that was good about the story is still hunkering down in the back-brain and waiting it out, and that disk will morph from a kind of safety blanket into a symbol of failure after a while, and it’s not failure. It’s going to take us a long time to figure that out, and we do get there eventually, but we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of false starts and hits to the confidence if we hadn’t so desperately and wrong-headedly held onto the hard evidence of the initial launch delay. (And you know we never like our old writing anyway—which is why we never once open that disk the whole time we have it—so keeping it “in case we can use some of it later” is pointless and just causes us more angst than necessary.)
Anyway, the story won’t die just because we let it hibernate in the back-brain for longer than usual. I know you worry we’ll forget, but trust me—we don’t. That shiny little coal the seed of the story started out with is still there; you’re just not ready to turn it into a diamond yet. You’ll have to leave that to Older Us. I’m not guaranteeing it’ll be a diamond treasured by all, but it’ll be our diamond, something we can be proud of, and we’ll make that first delicate cut when it’s ready to be made.
And it’s not like any of the original stuff goes to “waste” so quit thinking like that. Every “failure”—or even delay—adds to our maturity as a writer, and everything we do or try enriches our next project in some way. We’ve already used some of the traits of the angel story’s protagonist to build Dallin, and he turned out better for having let his characterization mature. We’ve used some of the characteristics of the world to give backstory and depth to Temshiel and maijin, and their history and evolution is a lot more interesting than what we had going 20 years ago.
Oh, and let me warn you about this now and save our psyche some whinging: We will, in about 15 yrs your time, read a book very similar to the angel story—right down to the occupation of the main character—and we will have actual palpitations, because it’s so close, what the hell, how did that author get in my head?! but relax. The author was not in our head, don’t be a ninny. (That’s what the tinfoil hat is for, idiot.) It’s just that it was a good idea and we’re not the only ones who have them. And it’s good that we read that book, because it makes us understand why we didn’t fail by not writing it, and it also frees up our head to the different direction the original story wanted to take right from the beginning and we just didn’t see it back then. ’Cause we were young and stupid. (Oh, don’t get all uppity; Carole +20 yrs—Carole + 40 yrs to you—will be telling me the same thing.)
Now, you will meet someone in about 5+ yrs time who will eventually become your sounding-board, your confidante, your writing partner and your BFF. You will meet because of writing and the mutual respect thereof, and thereafter discover a kindred spirit with enough polar-opposition in various opinions and methods and philosophies, etc. to keep it constantly interesting, educational and evolving. This BFF will one night have a few too many glasses of wine and drunkenly tell you during a late night IM session—during which she will actually slur her typing, and you will be unable to figure out how she manages it—that she really wants that angel story and you should be writing it for her as a personal favor, because I deserve it, damn it! And while yes, she kinda does, you will nonetheless metaphorically pat her on the head and chuckle and head off to a bed that doesn’t spin when you close your eyes, secretly wishing a mild hangover on the BFF, because she knows, she knows damn it, she knows BoB is all over us like a cheap whore and is giving us fits—we’ll need to have a talk about BoB another time, because holy shit AUGH!—and there are 57 other stories that want out, and there was a reason the angel story never got finished, damn it, we should never have told the BFF about it, we should’ve just let it fester back there like a sore tooth we can’t help poking now and then, because MATURITY! AUTHENTICITY, damn it!
And while we’re busy rolling over and petulantly knocking the husband off our pillow, the angel story will spring forth whole-formed into the front-brain. And it will shine behind our eyes in the watches of night and keep us from much-needed sleep, because it will be good. It will be better than what we could’ve done 20 years ago. It will be the reason it refused to cooperate back before we’d lived a little more, had specific experiences, acquired a different kind of awareness and a subtle shift in perspective. We will curse the BFF her drunken ego-coddling, but we will also (somewhat reluctantly) abruptly understand that the time is drawing near and (very reluctantly) thank her for it.
When we do, finally, write the angel story—and yeah, it’s making demands now, and we’ll probably start it just as soon as BoB stops being such a dick—it will be because the story is ready to be written, because we are ready to write the story it needs to be, and not because we have a shiny idea we have to take our jeweler’s tools to now, regardless of whether or not we should. “Should” is very close. Closer than it was 20 years ago. We’ll know it when it gets here. Probably because it’ll take us by the hair and beat our head against our laptop, but sometimes we like it a little rough. ;)
Carole +20 yrs
P.S.—Oh, and one more thing: Don’t start dying our hair. Yeah, I know, 25 is a little young to start going gray, and we do still like the freedom of changing colors every once in a while when we get bored. But we’re at the age now when we actually should be starting to go a little gray, and salon people apparently have no idea what you mean when you tell them that. The last time we tried to explain we wanted a little bit of natural gray mixed in so we didn’t have to let the color grow out and look like a weird, elderly inverted skunk, we ended up blonde with blonder highlights. We are not blonde. We haven’t been blonde since we were 8 and got fried at the beach. So just suck it up now and let the husband—who is, yes, eight years older, and how fair is that?!—look like your boy toy for a while. It’ll even out eventually.