Marvin the Manic Meadow Lark or When to give up.

18 Jun

For some reason, we attract the loony Meadow Larks. The sane ones go someplace else to live. For the last few years, we had a female who nested in the rain gutter by our front door. She wasn’t happy when people came in and out that door. Each year, her protests became more aggressive until people feared for their lives. Bet you haven’t ever heard the words aggressive and Meadow Lark used together.

Last year, she became so belligerent, we had to have her humanely put down. End of the Meadow Lark problems—until a few weeks ago. Enter Marvin.Image

We have birds fly into our front windows all the time, usually when the light is right, and the window looks like a mirror. Marvin, however, is a little different. He’s started trying to fly through the window, the closed window, about every half hour.

After considering several suggestions, I taped paper over the window, the consensus being that he could see himself and was protecting his territory. He continued to try to enter around the edges of the paper. Silly bird.

Last week, he expanded his attempts. He tries the small window he first used then moves around the corner to the picture window. He flaps along, banging his beak against the glass. When he gets tired, he sits in the cottonwood tree and plots. We’re going on four weeks with Marvin blasting at the window every half hour. Now that’s perseverance . . . or stupidity, I don’t know which.Image

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? You didn’t ask? Well, pretend you did. I have a book I wrote five years ago. It’s the first book I ever wrote, and it has a sentimental spot in my heart. The problem is it isn’t very good. It’s full of all the mistakes a new writer makes.

I’ve been attempting to revise this story for quite a while now. The characters are engaging and the story is pretty good, it’s just the writing that’s crap.

I’m kind of like Marvin in that I can’t seem to just quit with this book. I keep bashing my beak against the pages until I get tired and go sit in the tree (work on another book). Then a few days, weeks or months later, I’m back.

How do you know when to give up and just hide a book under the bed? Have you ever totally rewritten a book you loved?


Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Idaho


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16 responses to “Marvin the Manic Meadow Lark or When to give up.

  1. Janis McCurry

    June 18, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    Oh, Steph! This happens to every writer. I have my first book that I quit 30K words in because I was new and gave up. I adore the story and I do plan to go back because I haven’t given it a chance.

    My second book that I actually completed is atrocious with all the newbie mistakes. THAT one I am going to “humanely” put down. It has some personal baggage in it that I needed to get on the page (personal pain, personal relationship, you know the drill). BUT, it is not a book to be pubbed.

    I think everyone, at one time or another, doesn’t want to let go. I think in the end you go with your gut. But, there are a couple of questions you have to ask yourself.

    1) Do you actually like the story? Does it pop into your head at random with cool new scenes and nifty plot points? If not, ditch it.

    2) Do you actually like the characters? Are you rooting for them or are they just players to move around the page. If not, ditch it.

    3) Would you read it if you didn’t write it? Does it capture your imagination? Are you enjoying the process? If not, ditch it.

    There is always the new, fresh story you are longing to write. It’s not giving up. It’s moving on.

    • stephanieberget

      June 18, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      You are so right, Janis. And I do like the characters and story, it just needs so much work and shiny new stories are flying by, catching my attention. Then just as I decide to can it, I can hear the characters calling.

  2. Judith Keim

    June 18, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    I have more than one novel resting in its place on the computer. On one of them, an agent had me rewrite the whole thing but it still didn’t work. And with my kids stuff, I’m finding that I’m using pieces of several ideas to put together a new novel because, like you, I have a fondness for certain parts of other books I’ve either written or thought about. Good luck! There’s something of value in the book you can’t give up!

    • stephanieberget

      June 18, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      I’m thinking maybe trimming it into a novella. No decision is a decision, as my husband always says.

  3. Jennifer

    June 18, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    I have the opposite problem. As you know, I am continuously giving up on stories.

    • stephanieberget

      June 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      I don’t think you’re giving up. You have lots on your plate right now. Why don’t I give you Tied to a Dream and you can rewrite it. We can be co-authors. 🙂

  4. Corina Mallory

    June 18, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I have a start of a story that’s awful. The writing is, quite frankly, embarrassingly bad. But I think the *idea* behind it is pretty good, and I know at least one of the characters is worth salvaging. But those 15k words I have written? They should never see the light of day again. When I’m ready to write that book I’m not even going to open those files. I’m going to start over.

    If the story and characters are solid, if it’s just the technical issue of how you strung the words together when you didn’t know any better, if you really really love it, don’t give up. Have you tried outlining the story and starting from scratch? That’s what I’d do. Re-writing something where the writing is just *bad* even if the story and characters are good, is soul-destroying and so so hard. (I know this from experience.) But, if what you love are the characters and the story, reduce them to an outline and start again with a blank page.

  5. stephanieberget

    June 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Good idea, Corina. I’ve tried rewriting it and revising it. I like the outline idea. That might work.

  6. maryvine

    June 18, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    i went back two or three times to redo my first manuscript. The better I got at writing the more flaws I saw and it just isn’t going to make it. Wasn’t it Jennifer Crusie who said she only used 5,000 words of her first ms? Well, somebody said it. That could be a possibility, I guess. I did get my 2nd manuscript up and running though, with major changes.

    • stephanieberget

      June 18, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      Mary, that is exactly how I feel. I’ve gone back to it and keep finding more flaws. Thanks.

  7. robinconnelly

    June 18, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    I wrote my first novel when I was 12. I edited it until I was a senior in school/freshman in college. By then I was told… Your narrator has a major case of ADHD. Have someone else narrate it. Silas’ narration taught me how to get rid of a lot of those bad writing habits.

    Arabella took over the story telling and everyone enjoys her much better. However Arabella wasn’t active. She was passive, reacting to things that happened to her and letting Regan basically have reign in her story. I rewrote the book, removing her brother from the story…for the one book. He shows up in the sequel as her husband. I have her fighting for what she wants now and sacrificing things only when she must not at the convenience of other characters. The story is completely different from when it was years ago, and my passion for it still exists.

    I don’t think I’d have worked on it for so long if I didn’t have so many side projects to turn to on those “I’m so tired of looking at this” moments. But…it’s been… 13 years?

  8. stephanieberget

    June 19, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    Wow, Robin. You’ve completely rewritten you book. I like how you’ve takes some of the advice and used it to make the story and characters stronger. I’m not sure I have 13 years to put into this book. 🙂

  9. Peggy Staggs

    June 19, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    I haven’t completely rewritten a book. (See Janis’s list.) If I like the characters, and the story doesn’t work, I give them a new book. Rewriting is not my strong suit.

    • stephanieberget

      June 19, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      Give the characters a new book. I like that idea. It would take the frustration out of trying to revise.

  10. Lynn Mapp

    June 20, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    Steph, my first book was…bad. I put it away. My second book was better. I put it away. My third book was even better. I put it away. My fourth book…I kept working on that sucker. I must have rewritten it three times. I think the story is worth telling. I’m just not getting it right. I am tempted to give it another go, but…it’s a time suck.

  11. stephanieberget

    June 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    Thanks to your kind advice, I realized my first book was bad. You saved me a lot of time and encouraged me to learn something. It’s a time suck for sure, but I keep thinking I can fix it.


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