How many abandoned ideas does the average writer have? Not finished books that never sold (we all have some of those), but ideas that never made it to the finishing line.
When a new idea strikes, it's always so seductive. It trails its peacock-feather tail in front of you, casts 'follow-me' glances over its shoulder and poses provocatively in the half shadows. You can't quite make it out, but it's pregnant with promise. How can you resist?
But some of these pouting beauties are just flirts. They have no intention of bringing anything to fruition. They get no further than a scribbled note, an idea of a title. Then off they sashay, perhaps to strut their stuff in front of someone else, or maybe to dissolve back into the ether.
Others look as though they will hang around, but after a brief acquaintance it's clear the two of you aren't really suited. You might have worked up a character outline, and sketched an episode or two, but the excitement has gone. The idea which looked so tempting is actually rather dull. You don't make another date. Or maybe you're just messing around while waiting for something more alluring to come along.
Sometimes, though, you get seriously involved. Time passes. You move from the outline (if you write one) to the research and the writing. You pour your soul into it, invest your time, neglect your loved ones. And then the idea goes bad on you. It was messing you around - it's not really serious about this book thing. It's not ready to settle down, or certainly not with you. You mope around, weedle, try to please it in different ways, offer it a new setting, a new voice, a different font (that often brings out a story's true colours), an extra character or scene. But still it sulks. It doesn't call. You leave it on the desk(top) and get on with something else. But you keep coming back to it, drafting plaintive texts to try to rouse it. You set aside time for a nice evening together with no distractions and hope that you can rekindle the magic that has gone from your relationship. It might make a little effort to rouse itself but you have to admit that really it's dead. You're poking at the corpse. Time to move on.
But it's difficult to know whether a story is really dead, really irredeemable, or whether it's just hit a rocky patch (see Linda's post yesterday - this always happens at some stage). I'm lucky - the fiction I write is relatively short. If I give up on a story, I haven't generally invested months and months in it. But even so there is that pang of longing - what if it had worked out better? What if I'm wrong and it could be saved? Am I giving up too easily? Is it just playing hard to get?
Yesterday I gave up on a story that seemed a really good idea four or five months ago. But it went stale. I went back to try to revive it, but I think its condition is terminal. Maybe it's just in a coma and if I sit with it for long enough it will come round and smile and we can carry on from where we left off... But I don't think so. Time to turn off life-support.