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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The 11-Year-Old Cigar

On 13January2001, I got married. On 14January2001, I realized that everybody had gotten one of the cigars that I'd bought to celebrate the occasion ... everybody but me. Oh, the tragedy that is my life.

About a year ago, I was cleaning out a back room, and I found my wife's honeymoon purse. I looked inside and saw a familiar metal tube. As it turns out, my wife thought to put one aside for the cruise. Yes, very thoughtful. Unfortunately, we were so busy funning it up that she forgot all about it.

I pulled it out of the tube and inspected it. The construction was still good, but it was incredibly brittle due to its absolute lack of moisture. If you don't know anything about cigars, they'll keep pretty much indefinitely if you store them in a good humidor at the right temperature and humidity; outside of those conditions, however, you're asking for trouble.

Being a guy with a good humidor, I figured that I had nothing to lose, and popped it in. I'd heard the occasional tale of cigars "coming back to life" after years of neglect, so why not?

You're probably wondering what this has to do with you, the writer.

Well, I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast the other day, and the subject of abandoning a project came up. I can't remember what there answers were, but it got me thinking.

I'm one of those guys who twitches every time I hear a new writer talk about giving up on a project because it's not turning out the way they wanted, they're stuck for plot, they hate their characters, or it's just "crap." Sometimes they'll just abandon it to a file on their computer, but often I'll hear that, in a fit of pique, they deleted it.


I'm okay with putting something aside for a while and moving on to another project. But getting rid of everything you've written seems a tad extreme.

Guess what?

Writing any novel isn't easy. Writing a fully-developed, interesting novel with 3D characters and solid plotting is hard. You shouldn't be in love with what you've written so far, because most of it is going to have to change to some degree.

It's important to remember why you started writing the work in the first place: You had an idea that you loved and thought could turn into a great book. Well, the worth of your idea never changes; the skill of your execution does. So your execution sucks now ... what's the big deal? If you're serious about writing, you'll get better.

But deleting a project because it's not awesome right out of the gate? I just don't get it. Honestly, it smacks of amateurism. At the very least, I think a writer should keep everything around just as a way to chart their growth as a writer, as a way of being able to say, "Hey, I'm improving. I'll be able to rescue this someday."

Back to the cigar. I don't know where you live, but we're getting freaky weather in NY. Last Sunday, we were in the 70's. My son and wife were napping, so it was a great time for some me time. I looked through the humidor, and that 11-year-old H. Upmann stared me right in the face. I'd forgotten all about it for a year. I figured, "Why not?"

You know what? It smoked like I'd just bought it. If I'd just tossed it out, I know I would have ended up regretting it.

1 comment:

  1. Dan,

    I hear that. I have a few short stories wallowing around in the horse latitudes while I'm churning through novel #2 but I never toss anything...but there is a growing scrap pile thats developing a pair accusing eyes I don't much care for...

    Interesting post there on Self/Pub vs. Traditional as I'm in that very quandary myself. If nothing gives in the next 6 months or so I may through in the towel and self publish.