When do you know your novel is not going to work?

For most us, starting our novel is the easy part.

An idea comes, or old ideas suddenly click together, and you start writing. The first chapter or two is good.

I myself have dozens of novel beginnings that I have started and stopped. Some of them are just waiting for time to complete them. Others are simply dead—sitting in the equivalent of my bottom drawer (the Ideas folder on my PC). At what stage does one realise that these ideas have died?

Even though we write mostly as a team, Sherylyn and I determine the novel rigor mortis factor a little differently.

Sherylyn will write the first few pages and then hand them to me. It’s raw, unedited and very first draft. If I don’t like it she dices the idea then and there. If I do, she keeps writing to see if it’s going to work. We know by around chapter three whether it’s working or not.

My criteria for liking or disliking the story are the characters, first and foremost, and whether or not the idea intrigues me.

As for me, I tend to write the first three to five chapters. By then I know if the story is or isn’t working for me. If it’s not working, it goes into the bottom drawer, Sherylyn unseen.

If it is working, I go back and do a rough first edit before I hand it over. If Sherylyn likes it, we keep going.

Neither method is perfect—Sherylyn had no say in Shared Memories, for example. I just couldn’t stop, and I would have written it anyway. Luckily she likes it. And some of Sherylyn’s ideas that would make really good stories die an unnecessary early death, but that’s what the bottom drawer is for. We can always revisit an idea.

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