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.
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.
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. My 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.
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.