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horses-ideasWhen it comes to writing, you can’t change horses midstream, so to speak. Or can you? Being flexible as a writer is a must. Whether you are writing for a publisher or yourself (or you are part of a writing team), you have to be able to let go sometimes, and start again.

It happens — the direction you pursued doesn’t quite work. So what do you do? You have all these beautifully crafted words, perhaps pages and pages have already been written. Dang it, it’s hard to accept, but there are times it may be unsalvageable.

Recently, Brit Darby decided to try something different, a whole new genre for us. B tackled the challenge and wrote the first draft. A great start to a contemporary piece, about 50,000 words in length. But, at that point, after some discussion we decided not to pursue it.

Why not? Several reasons. The main one was that writing in contemporary settings and about modern people just doesn’t feel right for us. There was one point in this book where there was a flashback to a historical period and historical characters. And then, there it was, the “right” feeling again. It was an “Aha!” moment. This was the chapter where a previously okay book became great.

In the end, we took a hard, logical and realistic look at the project. After some discussion, we let it go. Yet, from all those amazing words, a spark caught hold. A single idea inspired a whole new book, and the original writing took off in a different direction all together.

Now, I am working on a new historical, born from the unused contemporary book and I am excited about it. I don’t know if I can salvage any of the original writing, not literally anyway due to the vast difference in time period, but the spirit of it will wrap into the new storyline. That can be the beauty of writing as a team — one picks up where the other left off. This original story may have been shelved, but another is rising from its ashes like a phoenix.

For me, I feel like this loss of an unfinished work does not wound quite as deeply when fresh inspiration hits. Until I read that first draft, I had no idea what Brit Darby’s next book would be. Suddenly, it was there, being written in my head. Thanks to B’s wonderful groundwork.

As writers we get attached to our stories, our characters, and each and every word crafted from beginning to end. It’s hard work. And even harder not to use or publish it. Still, there are times when difficult decisions need to be made. It isn’t easy changing horses midstream, but it may be necessary. And, hopefully, when you do listen to your gut and go in another direction, you will have the benefit of being inspired by the spirit of the words left behind, as I was.

We writers all have incomplete works, books never to be revived or finished, ghosts of forgotten stories that won’t see the light of day. It’s a part of being a writer. But writing is never in vain. Writing something — anything — makes us better at our craft.