Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Pound, Pound, Pound

Yesterday morning I did something that I a) thought I would do several weeks ago, and b) thought I might never do: I typed ‘###’ at the end of my WiP. In case you don’t know, ‘###’ is a fancy way of saying, ‘THE END.’ This brought to a close the first stage of what may or may not be a new novel some day, a rough (very rough) draft of some 380 pages and 116,000 words, though a bunch of those words are in partial scenes that sit outside of that ‘###’, and also includes notes to myself within the manuscript, like [WHY?] and [Does he believe he’s helping?] and the ever popular [THIS IS SHIT]. The manuscript is full of inconsistencies, with names changing from one scene to the next, with a setting that’s about as solid as warm Jell-O, and almost certainly a bit of a wandering story. The important thing, though, is it’s done, because for a while, I really thought I wasn’t going to get there at all.

This manuscript was begun in April of 2022. The lightning strike was a segment of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a show both horrifying and hilarious, and one that is a veritable gold mine if you draw at all from current events and lean left instead of right. There was an idea there, and about two days after watching the inspiring segment, I started writing.

Those of you who know me as a writer know that I am a wingman, a writer who makes it up as he goes along, a process which is both thrilling and sometimes frustrating. Generally speaking, by the end of writing today I have an idea of what I’ll be writing tomorrow. At some point in the process I have written enough to know where things are going to end up and I can then write toward that. The actual ending will frequently change a little as I move toward it, but the shape of it usually becomes pretty solid, and gives me a point to aim for. This time? Didn’t happen, which is ironic because one of the very first scenes I wrote actually felt very much like the ending scene, or at least the tail end of a climactic scene. Not long after starting the manuscript, I plucked that scene out and stuck it at the back of the document, and tried to write towards it. Ironically, it’s not even a scene in the completed work.

This manuscript bedeviled me for quite some time. At a certain point in summer, I set it aside completely while I dealt with the release of Powerless. When I picked it up again it gave me so much difficulty I actually tried to outline it. That didn’t work so I ignored it again and went and revised and updated a previously-completed manuscript. For a while I considered abandoning it completely, but it was still there and I still thought there was something in it. In January I picked it up again and had periods of great success, including an astounding 8,000-word day and an increasing sense that I could do this. But the ending. Oh, the ending eluded me until about two weeks ago. I was writing, and I could almost see it. I thought for a moment that I was going to be able to wrap it up that very day, but it was a false alarm. No end in sight. And then, yesterday, there it was. In the end I don’t know if this will amount to anything. For now I will leave it aside for a bit while I go back to the other project and do some clean ups based on some valued feedback, and then I’ll come back to this one and see what it’s got. Here’s hoping the next round won’t be quite so troublesome.

Thank you for reading! Writers, have you ever had a project you thought you’d give up on completely? Did you stick it out and finish it?

2 Responses

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever given up a project. I’ve put one aside until I could figure out what the next book in the series would be about. It’s still sitting there, waiting (hopefully, not for much longer). And my current WIP is taking me forever. I wrote one of those horrible drafts where nothing really made sense. I’m now trying to make sense of it and struggling. A lot. But at least I’m back at it, so that’s good. I really want that one finished so I can go back to that one waiting.

  2. Hi, Stacy, sorry it took me so long to respond, I’ve been so bad! I hope you’ve made sense of the WiP!

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