Granny Le Guin

Granny Le Guin

Image result for ursula k le guin

I know I’ve said it before, but I didn’t really grow up in a family of readers. Mom is constantly reading books passed to her by relatives and neighbors, and she passes them on after that –  mostly thrillers and dramas, though, not the sort of thing that interested me at an impressionable age.

At no point that I recall did someone hand me a book and say “Here, I want to share this with you.” Aside from some minimal librarian guidance when women manning the school counters saw me gravitating to this or that genre, I mostly found my favorite reads and authors by devouring everything on a shelf or through online fan forums.

This means I somehow utterly missed Ursula K. Le Guin. I don’t know how, or why. You’d think schools would have a thousand copies of The Left Hand of Darkness on the shelf. Or that at some point I’d be forced to read it for class. (The only sci-fi books I directly recall reading for class was The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughs for a grade seven project on worldbuilding, where I deliberately chose the one book no one else did so I wouldn’t have to be in a group.)

It wasn’t until the after-school programing block on YTV introduced me to anime (Sailor Moon! Inu Yasha! Escaflowne! Gundam Wing! Dragonball Z!) that I ever heard of Le Guin, and that was only because in 2006 Ghibli Studios announced “Tales from Earthsea.”  I was living in Japan at the time, and the English section of the local bookstore was quite slim. But they did have the Earthsea series in an omnibus volume, and I took that home and consumed it in a weekend to prepare for the release of the film.

(I was disappointed, of course. I don’t know why Ghibli has a habit of taking a great story and turning it incomprehensible. They did the same to Howl’s Moving Castle, too, another series and author I discovered because they announced the adaptation).

I can honestly tell you that the Earthsea books – aside from the multitude of Stargate: Atlantis fan fiction I was consuming at the time – was the only story to directly influence my debut novel Triptych.  I began writing the original incarnation of the novel, a novella titled (Back), in January 2006, or thereabouts.

Reading the Earthsea books made me think a lot about the standard Fantasy Narrative, Hero, & Land that I’d consumed via Piers Anthony and Anne Rice novels up until then. It was the first time I had been confronted by my own inherent racism – why was I surprised to realize that Ged wasn’t white? – and by the privileges I had enjoyed as a reader until now.

It made me think a lot about what kinds of stories weren’t being told, by which kinds of characters, from which kinds of POVs. While I didn’t go as far as retroactively would have liked in making the cast and locations more diverse, or the discussions and displays of sexuality more complicated, I certainly would not have been thinking about these things at all were it not for Earthsea.

Many people have compared Triptych to Stranger in a Strange Land, or Canticle for Leibowitz, or The Left Hand of Darkness. None of which I read before I wrote the book (the first two of which I still haven’t read since), for which I’m glad. Because I might not have dared to write Triptych if I had read The Left Hand of Darkness first.

When Dr. Mike Perschon invited me to speak at the Grant MacEwan English Student Conference in February 2017 to speak in his English course “Topics in Race and Gender” – where he was teaching my sophomore novel The Untold Tale he mentioned the names of some of the other books on the syllabus. And I realized that I was about to step in front of a classroom filled with people who were expecting me to know at least one of the other authors I was being taught alongside and panicked.

Oh crap.

I read it on the plane to Edmonton and whoa nelly was I glad I did. Those students were way more prepared for my weekend than I was. And again, I was so, so happy that I had not read Left Hand before Triptych, because there were choices that Le Guin had made in the novel that would have made me want to veer opposite in response. Because I would have wanted to explore the areas her narrative hadn’t. In being unaware, I got to explore some of the same fees, but in a different, parallel light.

I always thought Ursula Le Guin would get a kick out of that. Though, of course, I don’t think my work was as thoughtful as hers, so I would have been terrified to even consider to put it into her hands. She was, by all accounts, the kind of woman to call out cowardice and shallowness when she saw it. And in reading Left Hand, she made me wish I had been a braver storyteller when I’d put Triptych on the page.

Luckily, I had not yet finished edits on The Silenced Tale when I read Left Hand. And I think I did make the harder, bolder choices with that novel. And I know for a fact that I went back into some of my notes for future novels and changed up the ideas in there, too.

Ursula K. Le Guin made me a stronger writer, not once, but twice.  I wanted to one day thank her for that. This is the closest I’ll ever get, now.




On the day Anne McCaffrey passed away, her son Todd emailed a group of people, me among them, and told us that the announcement was going to go out that day and to prepare ourselves. I’d only met Todd the once, when he decided to crash the launch party for Triptych, and he’d given me a beautiful blurb for my debut novel as a result.

Todd barely knew me from Eve, but I appreciated the heads-up all the same.  Because it gave me time to excuse myself from my dayjob desk and go have a private sob in the ladies’. I took an extralong lunch that day, and went to the book store, and purchased myself a copy of the very first Dragonriders of Pern book. I’d read McCaffrey before, but never the Pern books. I don’t know what I had been waiting for.

I only knew that now was finally the time, to connect to McCaffrey through her most famous work by buy a book that I would never be able to get her to sign for me. In reading the novel  I was reminded that she was one of the great founders of not only modern fantasy and science fiction, but one of the pantheon of women who I have nicknamed “Gran” in my head, because they were the ones whose work were a direct influence on my own, the way they have directly or indirectly influenced so many writers who have come after them.

Grannie McCaffrey was gone.

In the last few years, I’ve lost another of my Grans – Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Howl’s Moving Castle books. That left Gran Lois Lowry, Gran Jennifer Roberson, and Gran Ursula K. Le Guin

And now I’ve lost another of the great beloved women of my literary genesis and the dreams of my childhood heart.

She was never mine, not really. Not in the way she was her family’s, or her publisher’s or her agents. But she was mine in my heart, in my imagination, in what she taught me as a feminist, as a storyteller, as a teacher. I looked to her and her work the way a child looks to their grandparent for advice, and a kind word, and good stories.

I hoped one day to shake her hand. To maybe even call her Gran to her face, though I would have to explain why. To thank her.

Part of the reason I started pushing my own work for Hugos and Nebulas was because I wanted to get the chance to sit beside her, to look her in the eye in the middle of the acceptance speech and say “This is yours, in part.”




There’s a joke, in The Accidental Turn series, that my character Elgar Reed is a literary magpie. He’s the author of  “The Tales of Kintyre Turn”, a 1980s style sword-and-sorcery epic of either novels about a lord’s son who rejects his pampered upbringing to go swing an enchanted sword on the front lines of an inter-racial magical war.  I imagined Reed as the kind of writer who figures the best way to get famous is to do exactly what everyone else before him did – his work is a Lord of the Rings knockoff, with elements he’s grabbed from everyone who came after the Professor. To the point where there are moments where

He’s the kind of self-important author who thinks that he’s cleverer than his readers, and that he can pull the wool over their eyes, instead of realizing that a reader and a writer are a team that tell the story together. See, he thinks we won’t notice.

And this sort of meta storytelling gave me the opportunity to use his selfish magpieshness to fill the my books with my own tributes to my Grans. A pub that Bevel and Kintyre frequent is called The Pern. And the land in which they venture is called Hain.

I so wanted to be able to share that little wink and nod with her. And the gratitude.

She reached through her prose and made me braver – not just as a writer, but as a feminist, as an activist, as a bi woman with a disability, as a human over all.  I’m sure I’m not the only one, too.

So I guess the only thing I can say now is:

Thanks, Gran. They’re all yours, in part.


JM FreyGranny Le Guin
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Editing Thoughts, and Angst About Character Description

I am doing edits on The Forgotten Tale (The Accidental Turn Series novel #2).

These are feminist, meta-fantasy novels about what fantasy teaches its readers, and the messages that fantasy readers – men, women, readers of all faiths and ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and sexualities.

And thus, these stories are set in a very stereotypical “Western Concept of Sword and Sorcery Fantasy World”.  It’s meant to be Middle Earthian, and like every other white-centric fantasy realm that has been inspired by Middle Earth.

This is the point, because when my MC arrives, an Asian-Canadian from Vancouver, she looks around her and goes. “Oh FFS. Are you kidding me? You can have a half dryad in the taproom, but not a black dude? Not a brown girl? Jeeze.”

It is deliberately meant to be a commentary on white=goodness in these sorts of narratives. Which of course goes with black=badness.

It’s pointed out, it’s referred to, it’s actually discussed, within the narrative itself.

I, as a white woman, have been cautious and I have tried really, really hard to be respectful, and careful about how I construct the exposure and subversion of these tropes.  I have second-guessed the crap out of every choice I’ve made, and discussed it from here to kingdom come with lots of author-types.

After getting ripped to tiny, quivering chunky bloody pieces by Requires Only That You Hate for Triptych, I can tell you I’m nervous AF about this. I want to talk about it. I want to. I want to be a good ally. I want to do this right.

So, part of the subversion is that I’m slowly populating the Hero’s Party with PoCs who are genuinely good people. The Hero, of course, is white. He’s power-fantasy jock type who sleeps with everyone he can. But by the end of the series, I’m aiming to have him outnumbered by PoC.

And it makes me squirmy-yucky cringy, but I’ve decided to make the pirates black. Because in these sorts of books and films, black=badness. I hate doing it. I hate reinforcing this stereotype, even consciously and for the exact point of inverting it. So there’s this pirate character who is a Good Guy, and that’s the point. He’s black, but he’s not evil because he’s black. He’s just a dude. Who just happens to not be white.

Speaking to my beta reader last night, she said that she didn’t understand that one of the characters, who I introduce in the middle of the first act of the book, was black. That I hadn’t been obvious enough about it and …


The thing that always bothers me is that characters are Assumed White Until Proven Otherwise. And then the PoCs are described as food-coloured which… no. PoCs are not consumables, and do not exist to be some sort of sensual sensory experience. I try very hard not to describe any character’s skin colour as a consumable, unless I’m doing it for all the characters.

So I try to avoid describing my PoC characters any differently than I would my white characters. I talk about facial structure, eye and hair colour, the tone of their skin if they’re blushing, or ill, or sunburned, etc. or the way their colouring is set off by an outfit.  (Something that ROTYH missed when she lambasted me for Triptych. She said there were only two PoC characters in the book. She’s wrong. And then, in my next book, where the Book Boyfriend character was black – as they so rarely are depicted – she accused me of Exotifying The Other. Like, jeeze, lady. Make up your damn mind. Which is it? Do you want PoC leads or not?)

Only it appears that I’ve been too subtle in my description of the black fellow in The Forgotten Tale. And now I am feeling all squirmy. Because I could easily go back in and add more descriptors to make it clear that he’s black, but then … that feels like unfairly singling him out and Othering him. I don’t say, “BTW, Kintyre’s white.” Why should I have to say “BTW, Wyndam is black”?

But on the other, other hand, Representation Matters, and I want it to be clear to all readers that this character is a PoC. That, yes, there is a black guy in this epic fantasy book, and he is a thoughtful, good, intelligent young man with a big heart and good intentions. I want there to be no mistake.

And now I am sitting here, staring at the blinking cursor, feeling all kinds of uncomfortable, uncertain how to approach this. Do I leave it as is? Or do I try to find a way to indicate Wyndam’s blackness without being offensively obvious?

JM FreyEditing Thoughts, and Angst About Character Description
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Words for Writers: Tag, You’re It! – Writing Process Blog Tour

Yay, you found me! Here is my post on the dreaded “P” word – PROCESS. How, how, how do you write? I get asked this a lot.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how you should write. Every person’s process is different, and forms out of years of habit and the situation in which they live and work. What I can tell you is how I write, and that might help you figure out your process.

1) What am I working on?

I have two novels on submission right now (one steampunk YA action/adventure; one high fantasy). I’m also working on a TV series backdoor pilot/ tv film with a co-writer (I’m just doing the dialogue pass now). I just handed in about a hundred short stories to various people, and at some point I’m hoping to get around to starting to draft out a radio drama. I also have a shortish novel out with the beta readers; once it’s back I will be into revisions for that.

Currently, I’m writing a pitch package for a new novel (synopsis, long pitch, short pitch, first three chapters); once that has been through revisions and is off to my agent, will return to a beloved novel project that I had to set aside after an emergency trip to the hospital a few years ago. I’m really excited to be coming home to that one.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m told that I write the thinking person’s sci-fi/fantasy. No matter what the story is, I always try to be honest and thorough about the issues inherent in the narrative. I don’t write “issue books”, as in, narratives whose sole focus is an after-school-special broad spectrum ‘issue’; but I don’t shy away from discussing or including realistic issues that people in these situations may encounter. I do try to be realistic in how I portray grief, non-neuroptypical characters, microaggressions and the misogyny that women encounter daily, etc.

And of course, I do my best to try to steer clear of writing white, heterosexual, able-bodid and neurotypical cismen. Not because I hate them, but because the market is already saturated with characters like that. I can do something different, reflect the variation of world around me more accurately. I try to be very respectful when I write from the POV of someone unlike myself – I talk to many people like that, read articles and blogs, etc. Of course, I don’t always get it right.  But I do my very best to be as accurate to their lived experiences as possible, and to be respectful of the problematics inherent in writing from a POV which I don’t live.

And of course, I like to do that all with aliens and dragons and magic and vampires. That’s part of the joy of writing SF/F work; you can speak in metaphors and similes or you can use fantasy creatures to speak about current issues, or any combination.

I very much enjoy telling the story from the non-traditional point of view, too. When I think of a story, I try to think of who the protagonist would traditionally be, and then try to figure out a way to tell the story from the POV of someone who isn’t the traditional protagonist of that kind of narrative. Sometimes that doesn’t work for the story, and I can’t be tricksy with it, but generally that’s where I start when I’m trying to determine who is narrating my tale.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because I was sick of SF/F filled with people who weren’t like me, didn’t deal with the kind of struggles that I deal with daily, didn’t have any concept of what it was like to live in my situation, and my body.

I also began as a fanfiction writer, so a lot of the tropes, sentence structures, imagery, and my desire to engage in elastic-play with narratives comes from that community.

4) How does my writing process work?

Asdfghjkl. Good question!

Normally I begin a story with a thesis phrase or idea. I do a lot of thinking, and a lot of noodling about writing little dialogue scenes or character sketches, until I feel like I’ve hit on something that works. Then I usually try to write the pitch/back-cover copy for the idea. If I can encapsulate it in 200 words, really make it pop in nearly no space, then I know I’ve hit on something worth pursuing.

From there I open my Scrivener, copy all the notes I’ve made into the appropriate sections and … well, just write. I write whatever pops into my head, whatever scenes or arguments, or cool ideas I have. If I get a different or new cool idea, I write that down too. Sometimes I end up writing hundreds of pages of just STUFF. Some of it gets moved to different book projects. Some of it gets shoved into the morgue. (Sometimes I pull things out of the morgue and add it).

As I’m writing all these big chunks of awesome stuff, I slowly develop the characters. I find out who they are through all these scenes, and make notes in my files. Sometimes, if I really need to figure out something about a character (who they are, what they love, what they fear), I’ll do some of the character-building improvisation exercises I learned in acting school.

I’ll wash the dishes and talk aloud to myself as the character. I’ll hold a conversation between a character and myself, forcing them to answer. Sometimes I even record it, so I can use the dialogue later.  When I’m driving, I’ll turn off the radio and engage in friendly daily chit-chat with the character. If I write myself into a corner I’ll sit back and ask my characters why they just did or said what they did.

This all sounds a bit kooky, but in engaging with characters in this manner, I find I can hone in on their speech patterns, voices, and traits much better than if I just sat in my desk chair and thought about it. I’m a very physical, verbal, tactile person. If you were to ever meet me, you’d know that I speak in essays, driving always to a thesis. (Some people find it cute; some find it super annoying. I have to work hard to be conscious of my tendency to ramble and lecture during a conversation).

So, once I have a solid grasp of character (and through them, usually a world and culture), ad a big old pile of scenes, then I usually start to do something I call “Laying the Garden Path”.  I figure out where the ending has to be, first, and if one of the scenes I’ve written already can be the ending or if I need to write something else. From there I figure out what the climax must be, and then where the story starts.

Sometimes at this point I end up abandoning the project, because I realize that while the moments are cool, there’s no novel here. The writing that I did gets shuffled into the morgue to be used for another project, if the opportunity arises.

Once I have the path of the novel projected, I can start to lay the scenes out like flagstones in the garden. I turn and twist, flip, invert, rearrange, break up, smash together, or straight up reject all the strangely shaped elements of the book, and otherwise determine how they all fit together. Once I’ve finished that, if any more cool scenes/flagstones have occurred or popped out at me, I write those next.

Once the stones are laid, then I generally go back and start straight from the beginning and do all the mortar work – that is, the storytelling that stitches together those pivitol moments. If more flagstones want to be written, I jump ahead and add them, and then just return straight to where I left off with the gravel and mortar.

Once the whole book/path is put together, I usually let it rest for a bit before giving it a full re-read to make sure it all works as one smooth narrative. From there it goes to my beta readers, back to me for edits/revisions, off to my agent, back to me for edits/revisions, and then from my agent to the editors.

And then I start it all over again!

(And to further the analogy, I feel like fanfiction is the flowers that grow up between the paving stones – organic, engaging, and proof that someone’s passion can never harm and only beautify your own creation).

This process has taken me as long as ten years for some books, and as little as three months for others. It all depends on my free time, availability, the amount of research I need to do, and how urgently the book wants to be written.

 I tag GABRIELLE HARBOWY and LEAH PETERSEN. Go check out their answers to these questions about process.

Gabrielle Habrowy – Editor, writer, and anthologist. Gabrielle edits and proofreads for publishers including Pyr, Circlet Press, Paizo, and Seven Realms Publishing; she is Managing and Acquisitions Editor at Dragon Moon Press, a Canadian independent publisher of fantasy and science fiction; and is available for hire independently by publishers. She is also a staff proofreader and columnist for Lambda Literary and an Affiliate member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She’s worked with first-time authors and aspiring authors, as well as New York Times Bestsellers and Hugo Award winners.

Leah PetersenLeah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing. She is the author of the Physics of Falling YA SF series.

And please check out the REST of the blog-tour and enjoy the Choose-Your-Own Adventure of finding everyone who was tagged. I was tagged by Ruthanne Reid!


For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Tag, You’re It! – Writing Process Blog Tour
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Words for Writers: Bidding Farewell

This weekend, I am in mourning.

Time of birth had been somewhere in the spring of 2007; the time of death was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, July 26th 2012 while hunched over my much-dog eared and highlighted copy of Jane Austen for Dummies.

Yes, that was the moment that I realized that the manuscript I had been working on for nearly five years was dead. And just like for every other death I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing, the swift realization was followed by an even swifter sucker punch to the gut.

That was it. It was over.

I curled over the book, pressed my forehead against the spine, and cried.

Because this manuscript? This novel I’d written and was fact-checking with Dummies? That manuscript was unsalvageable.

What happened?

Well, this book was meant to be one of those kinds of books that is a revisionist history without changing any history whatsoever. The steel frame of 100% historical accurate events was the mold, and the story itself was melted plastic that I had pushed through the cracks to ooze out the bottom. It was meant to be one of those books that you read for the fictional story, and then when looked up the historical persons and events, realized it was completely plausible that the story had happened, even if there was time travel and science fiction.

Only the frame, I realized, was the wrong shape. I had messed up somewhere four years ago, messed up again on both research trips to England; I had gotten one itty bitty number wrong (1805 instead of 1804) and it had shattered the plastic of my story. There was no way to take the steel frame away and reposition the plastic segments without cracking the whole book apart.

The book was dead.

Now, before you try to tell me that there’s always a way to shift things and muddle, please understand that I filled a whole notebook and several hours worth of conversations with friends and fellow writers. And there are cheats, there are always cheats, but I didn’t want to cheat.

The whole point of this book is that there weren’t going to be any cheats. It was going to be all right and plausible and yet completely fantastic and impossible.

So getting this one thing wrong, this one major thing, completely destroyed the rest of the novel. The time line was thrown entirely out of whack, and no matter how much tetris or jenga I play with the plot, I cannot make the shattered pieces of plastic fit the frame any more.

This was especially hurtful and frustrating to me as I had already had a discussion with my agent about the book and he had said that while it was a fine manuscript, he wasn’t interested in shopping it. I wasn’t trying to revise it to make him change his mind, but because I thought the story was still worth fighting for, still worth improving, and that if the book was in great shape I could put it away for a while until someone asked me if I had a romance novel to shop.

I had also mentioned it to some important folks in NYC whose interest had been piqued, so I felt like I was not only witnessing the death of my novel, but that I was in some way betraying the confidence these other people had in my work. That I had let them down.

That, I think, was the worst part of it of all.

I felt like a miserable, utter failure. I still do, a little.

So what now? What does one do now, when something you’ve worked so hard on suddenly becomes non-viable? How do you, as an author, handle actually giving up on a story?

The first thing I did was open a very good bottle of wine, sit out on my deck, and brood. I filled notebooks with possible cheats, but disliked every single one of them. I called my ever faithful beta reader and hashed it out with her, and we came to the same conclusion: unsalvageable. I spoke to an author friend: unsalvageable.

I am frankly still flailing emotionally. I had two very rough nights, one filled with horrendous nightmares about how none of the books I ever produce again will be good and that I’ve used up my life’s allotment of ideas.

The only way, it seemed, to be able to get over this decision to bury the book was to treat it like an actual person who had passed away. After all, we writers really do emotionally connect with our novels as if they were people. We cherish the characters and the worlds, we take pride in the moments and fight with the errors. We spend years thinking about, thinking through, thinking around our books.

Books take up real estate – emotionally, mentally, physically.

To have to give up a book is, very much, no different from having to safe farewell forever to a loved one.

To that end, here is the Kubler-Ross model of the Five Stages of Grief:

Denial – like me, you’ll probably be stunned and horrified when you realize that this book is done. It is gone, and not in a good way, where it’s heading off to an agent or editor. It will never be read, it will never be cherished, and it will never leave your home. You’ll rage, you’ll wail, you’ll have a very tough few nights.

Anger – and then you’ll be mad. Angry that you screwed up the research so very badly, angry at your beta readers when they told you that it was a good book (even though it’s not their fault that it’s not working, and they may have genuinely enjoyed it; that’s why it’s called irrational anger), angry at the book for not being better, angry at the world for forcing you to give up.

Bargaining – then you’ll start to try to find away around it. Changing plot points, switching characters, telling the book from a different POV or starting period, anything, anything to not have to give up on it.

Depression – but of course, none of that will work. Because if it worked, then it wouldn’t be a dead book, would it? So you’ll cry. You’ll hurt. You’ll feel terrible and probably walk around like a zombie. People will say, “it’s just a book” and you’ll hate them a little bit for not understanding. It wasn’t a book, it was a tiny spark of life and you are the one who had to smother that flame.

Acceptance – In the end, it will suck and it will hurt, but you will come to the realization that putting the book away will be good for you and your career. The book just isn’t working, just isn’t good enough, and to focus on something that is working, you have to sacrifice this one. It will be okay. Your world didn’t end because you had to let go. It’s just fine. You will always hold a warm spot in your heart for that book, those characters, that world, and in the end, at least you hold it.

In the end, I’m sad to see this story get put away in the box under my bed labelled “morgue”.  But I also feel lighter, because truthfully, this book wasn’t working. It never really was working. I got some fabulous feedback from some fantastic beta readers (James Bow among them; what a swell guy! Especially since he’s pretty much the antithesis of this book’s target demographic and apparently loved it.) but I never really could seem to get it to work.

The characters were never quite on (though I loved my version of Captain Francis Austen), the plot contrivances never quite natural enough. It was like the plastic fit, but not comfortably.

So what now?  Now, the book goes away, possibly forever. Maybe in a few years I’ll dig the research out again and start from scratch, re-read the whole set of articles and texts that inspired the novel to begin with and try to make a go of writing a whole new book.

In the meantime, I will mine the corpse for great scenes, imagery, and lines to feed my new manuscripts. I started a brand new novel a few days ago, and I think I can use some of the scenes from the dead book in this one.

Possibly, if someone invites me to an appropriately-themed anthology, I will revive the concept as a short story.

For now, I will make my farewells and move on to other projects.

And who knows, perhaps, just perhaps in a few years, I might release the original novel as a freebie for a laugh. “It’s a good book,” I’ll say. “Shame that it’s dead. Enjoy the zombie goodness.”

I am still in a rough place. I am not over this book, not yet. I don’t know when I will be. But I know that it was a far braver, harder thing to do to acknowledge to myself that the book wasn’t working, couldn’t work, and to accept that and put it away. Far, far better than flogging a book that no one could ever accept or sell, a book that I insisted to myself, to my agent, to editors and publishers and the reading public was good when it wasn’t, it simply just wasn’t.

And it’s tough. And it sucks. But in the end, it will make you feel better, feel proud, and feel ready for the next hurdle of being a professional writer.

Words from Other Writers On Mourning Your Book:

I asked: How do you deal with realising your book is dead? When should you abandon a book?

Nikki Faith Fuller‏ (@Myth_Girl): When you no longer feel like you *have* to do it. And it’s not an abandoning, but a letting to 🙂

August C. Bourré‏ (@FishSauce): Never abandon anything forever. Bits can be used, or it can take a new shape, but don’t see that as abandoning.

Gethin Jones (‏@gethinmorgan): When it stops being fun!

Fingers Delaurus: Look at George Lucas. Ponder. THAT should motivate to lock the thing away when your editor says it’s done 🙂

Victoria De Capua Campbell: Take a holiday. Distance.

Adam Shaftoe: Strip it for short story fodder.  Remember that this will not be the last thing you will ever write. Find a take away from the experience that will let you improve on the next project.

K.W. Ramsey‏ (@KWRamsey): It’s never abandoned. It’s just put on the back burner until the answer appears or I die, whichever comes first

Gillian Leitch‏ (@gilliandoctor): From the ashes something beautiful will come out- lost, but not forgotten, and lessons learned.

Rob St-Martin When opening the file (or notebook or whatever) doesn’t excite me, drains me dry just thinking about it, and I dread the sight of it, it’s time to stuff it in the archives and move on. Whatever good that can be salvaged from it will be, one day. Just not right away. Time will offer the emotional distance required to deal with it.

Derwin Mak Similar to what Rob says: when it isn’t fun to work on the story anymore. However, exhaustion doesn’t equal fun. On both my novels, there were times when I was exhausted, but I was still enjoying it.  As to what to do with it later, parts of it can wind up in future stories.


For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Bidding Farewell
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