Well, after a long talk with my literary agent, I've decided to take grandpa off the respirator. Wait, no, not grandpa--the novel I've been working on for the past year. It's not awful, but it isn't all that great, either, and I think I'd be better off spending the next year working on something new, rather than trying to beat this thing into shape. As I said to my agent, I don't want to have produced the literary equivalent of the health care bill--I want to have written something that is obviously good.
I suspect this happens a lot more often, even to the best published writers, than is commonly known. It's happened to me before, in fact. But this time around, it took me about half an hour to decide to put it out of its misery, rather than the months it took last time.
So how is it that I could have expended that much energy on something so easy to condemn to the scrap heap? Well, it isn't all bad--parts of it were a blast to write, and even held up to repeated drafts. But some of it is certainly bad. I think that, as with personal relationships, we often make poor artistic decisions based on misguided notions of our strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes there's stuff that we need to write, for whatever reason, that is not really fit for outside consumption. This is why I get a little leery whenever I hear someone refer to a manuscript I'm about to read as "therapy."
This one wasn't therapy for me, but I suspect I'd end up needing some if I had to tease a successful narrative out of it. For now, though, I've got another idea, and an empty calendar, and the sense that a great weight has been lifted. It's hard to complain about that!