My writing dilemma

Standard lore has it that your first novel is never any good. That it can take two or three or even more novels before you really get into your stride and master your craft.

My brain’s standard reply to this is: why, then, should I waste my best ever idea, my most burning plot, on a novel that I know beforehand won’t be any good? Isn’t it better to write a couple of “disposable” novels first, to hone my skills, and then return to my passion?

Then the other half of my brain rebels and says that it can’t write unless it’s passionate about what it’s writing about. And that there’s nothing to say that the first novel has to be useless, and that the skills learnt can be applied to improve it rather than moving on to another project.

So the two halves of my brain fight it out, each insisting that they have the most logical approach, and in the meantime I write no fiction at all.

At writing group last night I took in the opening of what I’d planned as my disposable novel. Yes, I decided to take a standard, overused plot and see what I can do with it, and yes that was spotted and commented on immediately. Does that matter?

I love the story of the origin of the Codex Alera series (and oops, didn’t realise my world name, Aleria, was so close to an existing fantasy one; that will need to be changed!) in which the author took on the challenge of taking not one but two lame ideas and seeing if anything can be done to make them worth reading. Who’s to say I can’t do the same thing with a standard trope? After all, there’s no truly new ideas in the world; every story is part of the same small library of plots. Star Wars and Kingdom are two movies that have very similar plots and both in their turn are similar to Lord of the Rings.

So, do I find passion for my disposable story, and plough on with that, for the benefit of the learning curve it provides? Do I work on my main novel, knowing that I don’t yet have the skills to do it complete justice? Or do I concentrate on writing exercises, to build up those skills?

All of these appeal, but not enough, and all of these have drawbacks, but not enough. And so I bounce between ideas, never settling on one and making the progress I should, as I do so often in my life. Time to make a decision and stick with it.

Suggestions please?


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