The Horse Is Dead… No More Flogging

For weeks now I have been trying to get excited about what would be my third manuscript. It’s actually the first MS I ever wrote, and for almost three years now, it’s been stuck in a folder called Story 1: Fringe Benefits.

I began it as a reunion romance and it spanned the two regions that I’ve called home in the last 40 years. It started in the vineyards at Margaret River and it ends in the vineyards of South Australia. It was to be a love story between, Seth, CEO and big kahuna boss of a bunch of vineyards and wineries across West Australia; and Quin, originally Seth’s employee. After Quin makes a monumental stuff-up… she gets fired for negligence and with her career in tatters, heads interstate. Seven years later, Seth’s company acquires the winery in South Australia to which Quin sells her grapes, and the two are thrown back together.

So there you have the first plotline I ever came up with, (except when I rewrote Bambi when I was 8).

The book has a jealous co-worker, a meddling mother, boss/employee, and an ‘engagement of convenience’… In fact, just about every trope you can think of minus ‘Secret Baby’…

I did get to typing ‘The End’ on this book and submitting it, and it was rejected quick smart, by both agents and publishers. I left it behind and went on a steep ‘craft’ learning curve on the way to writing His Brand Of Beautiful and The Goodbye Ride. Not only have I enjoyed success with both of those, I loved (LOVED) writing them. They didn’t come easy — no book comes easy. But I was always interested and motivated to work, work, work on both of those stories and make them as good as I could.

Sometimes I think ‘Fringe Benefits’ suffered from being the first book. I was writing something that I ‘thought’ would get published. The voice was all wrong and I knew nothing about craft and it shows.

I have wasted about two months, possibly three, trying to save the 55,000 odd words that I had for Fringe Benefits. I changed scenes. I deleted scenes. I rewrote scenes. I changed point of view and tense. It was third person point of view, past tense. My latest rewrite shifted to first person & present tense. I even changed the dud title, without settling on a new one in my mind. Not even the title came naturally.

But really, truly, I think the reason I’ve been procrastinating my butt off; changing it, deleting it, messing with it… it’s because the story stinks.

I read a brilliant post by Alison Stuart this week about what happens when a writer finds “the black moment”. Alison talked about trying to make her book (a square peg) fit the proverbial round hole. She talks about what happened when she realised her book was at the point of Mount Doom (it helps to read her post if you’re a Lord Of The Rings fan – but it’s not hard to get the gist).

I read Alison’s post and I thought: “This is me.” I had the ring on my finger, I had pulled it off and was holding it out over the lava pit of Mount Doom… but I couldn’t give it up. No matter how much my inner Sam pleaded with me: “Let it go…”

Last night, I let Fringe Benefits go. I’m not flogging a dead horse a minute longer.

I have a great little idea that I wrote for the RWA ‘Sapphires’ Little Gem competition this year. I had fun writing the story (3000 words), and I’ve been thinking about how to work with that story. It was called Fairway To Heaven and the ‘Sapphires’ related to a brand of golf clubs. Cobra Sapphires. I even like the working title!

So that’s where I’m turning my attention and if I’m not quite blogging so much in the next few months, hopefully it’s because I’m head down/bum up in a new story. Wish me luck!

In the words of Alison Stuart, I’m going back to Hobbiton to start my quest anew!

8 thoughts on “The Horse Is Dead… No More Flogging”

  1. Well done Lily.

    The next story will be your best yet.

    Hubby is revisiting a manuscript that he’s been sitting on for 20 years. I think he thought it was going to be one of those cathartic pieces that stayed in the drawer, never again to see the light of day.

    But there was one character who had been calling him for years and that character has gone from being the bit player to the central character.

    Now the time was right to revisit the book. It’s going to be completely different, but that’s okay. It turns out the original book was the unrefined gemstone that needed cutting, refaceting and polishing before it showed off its best potential.

    Perhaps your first story is the same. Keep it on file. You never know…

  2. Golf! Is that story ringing bells with me????? I have one of those first books too, Lily. I keep punching fave lines and things out of it!!!! Great post. Good luck.

  3. I’m hearing you, Lily. I think that’s where I’m at with what was my second ms, which has been shelved for a couple of years while I wrote two other mss and published my first story. I’ve just begun rewriting that ‘lost’ ms this weekend as a suspense and can see that most of what I wrote will have to go. The protagonists will stay; typical hero–I fell in love with him and he deserves his own story!

    This is such a difficult task, letting go of that early idea, but I bet most writers have had to do it. Thanks for another engaging post. 🙂

  4. Hey Lily,
    That’s mighty brave to give your story up…but when it isn’t working, there’s nothing else to do. In this computer world, at least it’s there in case a brain wave hits.

    Good luck with your golf clubs 🙂

    Cate xo

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