Have you ever had a wonderful idea for a book but when you got it on paper, things (i.e. the ENTIRE story) just sort of fell flat? The characters weren’t as deep as you’d like, the storyline not as punchy as you intended and as for actual material, well, just imagining writing another seventy thousand words made you break out into a sweat.
I’ve done this before, and not five thousand words into it, I wondered if there was hope enough that the story would be something even I would want to read in the end.
So, what’s the solution? Well, don’t instantly think you have to scrap the story all because it’s dead in the water. I’m a firm believer in not wasting anything. Scrap food goes to compost (or the new dog IF she’s lucky and well behaved), clothes are worn until there are real holes in the knees and pill balls on the sweater. Even the shampoo, that lasts longer than the conditioner, is saved for future use.
Instead of tossing the story, rework and recycle your material. What you intended for a novel, might be better used as a short story. A story you think would work great as a personal essay may instead work great as flash fiction. And what about that story you thought might make the best women’s fiction novel, which really needs to be a poem?
If something isn’t working right, don’t think of it as the short, happy life of a story never written. Set the work aside, think about it, and come back to it with fresh eyes later. If you still think you can’t make it the great American novel you wanted, then maybe you need to recycle it.
This has happened to me. What I thought would make a great book, ended up being a two-thousand-word short story. And this was after an outline, character names, and thought-out plot and progression. Finding the right “recycling bin” is sometimes all it takes to make your story the masterpiece it really is, even if that masterpiece is no longer a novel but an eight-line poem.
Try reusing your material for something else and watch your words reignite the spark you saw in your story from the very beginning. Not every story needs to be a book. Not every book needs to be a thriller or romantic comedy. Change things up. Try different genres. Maybe the nonfiction family memoir idea really needs to be a science-fiction short story.
Recycle your ideas -- be willing to change -- and your writing world will reinvent itself into something remarkable.