Squib #5: Letting Go

I have here in my hands (well, figuratively) 2.5 pages of chapter 1.12 text—completed dialogue, narrative, and everything. These pages were a rough draft of the climax and dénouement I had in mind, written even before I outlined the theoretical ending to Part 1. I was that certain of how the first part of “Syncope” would end.

I wrote these pages back in 2006.

A dozen chapters and fifty-odd-thousand words later, my little experimental project had become something a bit different than I expected. First, the unplanned time that it’s been taking to even write “Syncope” has made my style evolution somewhat more pronounced, I think; you see, 2006 was around the time I quit my full-time job and started graduate school. I had some time between those events to waste on fun, which is why updates happened so fast back then. Then school started.

And then the entire American economy crashed, taking half the world with it. We were in the worst recession in a long time, and people were losing their jobs right and left—friends and family were all worried, retirement savings entirely wiped out, etc. (I’m glad no one I knew lost a house, though). I sometimes wonder what kind of demographic was reading/had read my fanfic—did anyone have to worry about rent or their mortgage payments? All of my energy at that point had to go into finding a job; forget writing or reading or anything else I might consider fun, because wasting time on that only filled me with guilt. It was pretty depressing.

It’s not like I ever forgot about the story either, as some may assume, but only because I felt that I didn’t have the right to work on it when I didn’t have all my other very real priorities in order. When I completed 1.10 and 1.11, I felt both satisfied that I had finished something but guilty at the same time. It’s a strange experience.

Second, I started to have different expectations in content, presentation, style, and everything going into each new chapter. The investment evolved: At the beginning, I saw it as a very intriguing experiment just to try out dialogue and narrative voice for the first time, and perhaps my outlook was much more lighthearted. Then as the story gained weight and I improved in the creative execution, I became much more invested not only in the entire process but in the plotting to the first part’s end. That end I had already written.

This actually became a problem.

That precious climax and dénouement became a creative prison, where I began to think that I had to write a certain way to make it there. This is actually one reason why chapters 1.10 and 1.11 took so freakin’ long for me to complete. But this isn’t how it really works, I’ve discovered. My writing style, story development, and plot expectations had changed enough beyond the original 2006 Part 1 ending that, as I sat down to outline chapter 1.12 after finally completing 1.11, it dawned on me that I couldn’t possibly use those 2.5 pages, or at least the climax itself.

It was so utterly cliché and unrealistic.

I’m talking about [headdesk] and [facepalm] levels.

I was actually embarrassed in realizing this and very disappointed. It was quite a personal investment, after all, thinking that this climax and dénouement were great, especially since I had written those pages sometime around chapters 1.1 and 1.2. It felt rather liberating at the time, as I thought I had book-ended my story and thus the middle should be an easy road to pave. Right? But it had taken me this long to finally come to a firm decision about these 2.5 pages.

After five years of clinging to this defined ending, it was time to let it go.

An interesting thing. By this time, I had already sent a half-completed 1.12 draft with outline to my current critiquer [wave], but without the completed 2.5 pages. After I made this firm decision (like, last week) and emailed my critiquer about it, I suddenly felt—get this—relief. It was the weirdest thing, something I definitely didn’t expect. It was as though a stopper that had been gradually pushed into my creative outlet was released. Now I have no climax. I still have the dénouement, however, so not everything was lost. But I get to think creatively again on how to make this work, and there’s a bit more freedom and satisfaction in knowing that I managed to veer away from the pretty awful cliché I almost published. Whew!

(Note to self: THINGS TO EDIT—”smiles do not speak” punctuation fixes.)

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