WinonaSavingsBankVaultMy current work in progress is no longer current.

It sits in a deep vault on the hard drive and I’ve bolted the door, for now. It had taken me around two years to write, so the decision was hard. It needed to be done. And it was better than a bonfire: metaphorical or real. Book_burning

Why? It is written as well as I could write it, has a terrific storyline and tackles an important subject with which most readers will be familiar, if not totally au fait, but it doesn’t work.

It started life as a 120 minute screenplay, but begged to be a novel, so I thought ‘why not’ and plunged in like a fool, or rather as one. But, when the screen characters developed and grew in the novel, it wandered away from its original theme and became something else entirely. Much of the difference is because my screenplay relies on visuals to spin its narrative, which need description or explanation in words when the pictures are absent, but it’s not the whole story.

Now I know I have a tendency to go ‘off message’ in my writing if I find an interesting topic and I tried to guard against it, but to no avail. What I ended up with was a fast paced thriller melded with a philosophical rant about reality (those who’ve read ‘Northman’ and ‘Song’ might recognise a marginally psychotic pattern here) and several interesting, but unnecessary characters – some of them have nothing whatsoever to do with the narrative thrust of this purported ‘thriller’.

It was an odd experience.

I could see the original story, but its dimensions had increased exponentially and part of it was occupying a different space-time continuum from that which I could observe as recognisable in terms of genre. I do have an interest in quantum mechanics, but the effect, in this instance, was not only disconcerting, but also seemed to violate all concepts of the thriller genre. I have already experienced reader complaints about mixing philosophy with horror stories/ thrillers and completely understand why any apparently didactic elements might not sit well with some. So, I’ve stuffed it away in a dark drawer, there to mature like a round of Stilton… or rot away in electronic Purgatory; I have no idea which possibility will eventually become reality, but hopefully it’s not Schrödinger’s Cat.Katze

It might be a good novel when I’ve decided what it is and edited the hell out of it, but I’m currently without an editor – one prepared to work for malt whiskey, that is – and the novel’s nature has escaped me. Which reminds me…

In the olden days, when I used to fish, I was fly-fishing on the glorious River Spey in Scotland for trout and hooked a big salmon. Salmo_salar_maleMy fishing tackle was light and not intended for salmon, but, after half an hour, with a little patience and gentleness, I’d managed to persuade the salmon to come to the bank and, lacking a suitable landing net, I was going to walk the fish along to a shingle beach and invite him to come ashore for tea, at which he would be the main course. The water next to the bank was about five feet deep and I could see him below me, twisting and flashing in the peaty water. He was fresh run, of a brilliant silver hue, and about twenty-five pounds in weight. It was a miracle that my line of seven pounds breaking strain and tiny six-foot fibreglass brown trout rod had even coped thus far. I began to walk him, leading him alongside the bank and he came at first, like a dog on a leash.

Then he stopped. Abruptly. Refused to move. I peered down into the water and he was only about a foot below the surface and looking at me. It was as if he were saying, ‘well, that was fun, but there’s a lady salmon of my acquaintance waiting a little further up the river, so…’ he turned once, flashing and, quite lazily, but before I could react, snapped the nylon leader like rotten sewing thread and was away.

The abandoned novel was a bit like that. It wasn’t ready to be caught, I couldn’t hold it and my equipment wasn’t good enough. When I come to it again I will make sure it is as perfect as can be, my gear is suitable to the task and my grip is tight.

What I’ve just written is the logical explanation for abandoning a novel that was very nearly finished.

There’s another explanation.

I’ll explain all in my next post, if this one hasn’t bored the pants off you. Tosa3

Here’s a picture of Chan, my favourite Japanese Tosa, from And Soon The Song.

Chan isn’t boring. At least, you’d better not call him that.


About J.D.Hughes

Writer of supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN & AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and three short stories: BOMBER, ISSUE 49 and THE 500 on Amazon and Smashwords. New novel to be published mid 2018, but on current performance might be posthumously...
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  1. Katrina says:

    Great blog, JD; thanks for cheering up a wet, grey afternoon. It’s a brave decision to abandon a novel but sometimes a necessary one. Often the time isn’t right. I abandoned one project for five years because I couldn’t decide what it was: women’s fiction? sci-fi? When I came back to it, YA had developed as a genre and it was ripe for a rewrite. Projects really can mature in those electronic dark drawers. Enjoyed the fishing analogy too, particularly since I’ve recently enjoyed a holiday in Speyside (though mine involved whiskey tasting rather than fishing). Hope when you look at the project again, you’re fully equipped to catch it!


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank, Katrina. Glad I could be of help with your weather! It’s hot here in the Derbyshire Dales and the sun just refuses to be English and is quite brazenly shining.

      I think we all have this problem with particular novels and it helps to know that yours eventually came out of the drawer. As for Speyside, I hope you didn’t confine yourself to their whiskey, and tried a little Islay as well. But I understand if you are not a fan of peat 🙂


      • Katrina says:

        I feel cheated – most of the UK seems to be sunny and hot today – not so in Essex! And I have to confess that I’m not a fan of Islay malts – something about that peaty taste is too medicinal for me 🙂


      • J.D.Hughes says:

        You’ll be glad to know that the sun heard my words and has gone in and gone south. It will be your turn tomorrow!

        it’s funny, a lot of people think peatiness is medicinal, but I can’t taste it. You could try a new bottling by Bruichladdich called ‘Rocks’. It was recommended to me only yesterday as a much less smoky Islay malt.


  2. JD–My dear I totally understand! I am currently working on one I had to shelve in 2012, and it is the followup to the 1st two in the series. I really lost my way. But Hey! All is not lost–When you are ready to kick it back into gear, I know an American editor who loves your work and for you her price for editing is…FREE!


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Connie, where would I be without you? 🙂 That’s an incredibly kind suggestion re the editing and I might very well take you up on it with my all new WIP, or at least ask if you would beta read for me. Read the second part of this blog post before deciding, though. The new one is not horror or fantasy, but might be hard to take. I’ll post Part 2 next week and would appreciate your opinion.

      Is your follow up to Huw or Tower of Bones/Forbidden Road or something new?


      • It’s the follow-up to Forbidden Road–and it is back on track finally. My only choice is to make it two books, but having made this decision, I can get on with finishing it, and the tale is nearly complete.

        Of course I love fantasy and horror, but you know me, JD–I love to read all sorts of genres and love your unique voice that comes across in your work. I also have a book that is not fantasy in the works (it’s hard sci-fi) so when I am at a standstill on one, I can move on the other.


      • J.D.Hughes says:

        I’ve not read ‘Forbidden Road’ yet, but it’s on my list, so I’ll get to it soon. I love mediaeval fantasy – and yours is a particular favourite of mine, so you’ll have a customer when you publish. Also, I wanted to know what happened to Huw at the end, so you might want to extend his adventures a little. The idea of a massacre of Bards was a terrific one!


  3. Lene says:

    See, I loved the mix of horror and philosophy in Northman. Please don’t change that. Violate the hell out of the thriller genre. It’s what makes your books so interesting.


  4. Terry Tyler says:

    I thought the philosophical element of Northman was one of the best things about it. It made me give it 5 stars. We’ve discussed the ‘writing what you want as opposed to what you think will sell’ ad infinitum, so I won’t go into it again, but think a moment – several people have said that I have my own genre. I don’t think there exist more than a couple of books in exactly the same genre as Kings and Queens. Only the other day I had a review for You Wish that said ‘No sure what category you’d put this in, but it works’, or something similar. Thus, my answer is: stop giving yourself a hard time and write what you damn well want. And remember that you’re in charge, you write the words. Congratulations, too, on using word of the moment ‘exponentially’!!!


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      I think one of the differences between your writing and mine, Terry, is that you sell yours! So, even if you cross genres your following will go there with you. And, because, your writing is of such a high standard and you have a great handle on marketing, you will continue, deservedly, to build on that success.

      The problem with the abandoned novel was one of comprehensibility. It didn’t make sense, so it would have given me a harder time publishing it in its present incarnation. The new WIP is driven in a way that the abandoned one never was and… it makes sense!

      If you belong to the quantum nerds club, as I do, ‘exponentially’ is as common as fermion, gluon and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (none of which I understand on anything but a particle plumbing 101 level) 🙂


      • Terry Tyler says:

        Ha ha ha re the quantum nerds club!!!! ‘exponentially’ is all over the place at the moment, with 75% of users thinking it just means ‘a lot’. I think ‘paradigm’ is on the up, too.

        Aha, I get it – yes, a book not making sense is a bit of a handicap. Perhaps you should write every man type philosophy instead of fiction?! I will just say that writing that comment made me want to read the end of Northman again, which I shall do later on today 🙂


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  6. Terry Tyler says:

    ps, get Rayne Hall’s book, Twitter for Writers. It’s excellent 🙂


  7. Paula Cappa says:

    JD, I think abandoning novels is perfectly legit. Sometimes the work needs to dream on its own, so to speak. I’m betting that the story will gel again in a few months and you’ll go back to it with deeper energies. Someone once said it’s a wise warrior who knows when to retreat and reestablish strength.


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      It would be great to think that the old WIP would be even decipherable in a few months, Paula, but I suspect the fault is in me, rather than in a perfectly good idea, over-egged! Slash and burn might be an appropriate course of action.

      How is your writing going?


  8. theowllady says:

    Hi JD, I think all of us writers have had characters take off on us. What I found that helps is doing an interview with them. I read this in a writer’s magazine a while back. I find they don’t stray as much!
    And your post isn’t boring! @v@ ❤


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Hello to you, OwlLady! I’d love to do an interview with my characters, but as a horror writer I rather fancy I wouldn’t emerge unscathed.

      Thank you for your comment about the post – it’s a fine line between being mildly interesting and terminally boring 😉


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