As writers, where would we be without the dramatic ultimatum that is the fork in the road? The damned if you do/damned if you don’t conundrum. I don’t simply mean for our characters and the development of their stories, but actually for us as writers, too.
My third published story was one I’ve mentioned here earlier,“The Three-Day Hump”. I wrote it more along the lines of literary erotica than with any awareness of capital-R Romance and its rules and restrictions. That was fine, and had been my intention from the moment of conception. I wrote the story with the development and ending I felt was truly justified for those characters. It was not a happy book, and though it was romantic in its own way, it was a long way from being a Romance. It could be argued the ending was happy, too, even though the characters went their separate ways.
It’s a decision a lot of us have to make between the “damn, that would make a great story” moment and the final pushing of the launch button, whether that be by the author’s finger or the publisher’s. Are we intent on telling a story, or selling a story? Ideally, we’d do both. Every single time. Reality is, of course, a much harsher mistress. (And I know, we should really be showing a story, not telling it! Heh.)
My book sank, as these things do far more often than we’d like. There are many reasons for that, not least of which is I’m still vastly unknown right now, let alone back in 2009, before I was even officially a cover artist. My marketing and promo skills are as near as anything to non-existent.
I still feel there is a lot of good writing in that story (not that we can trust the neutrality of my judgement, of course). I still intend to spruce it up and get it back out there.
My particular fork in the road involves how to treat the story when I rejig it. Do I keep the blend of antagonism and obsession between the heroine and hero, which really was the engine of the story as it was? Do I bow to economic ambition and make the characters soul mates who get their HEA?
To be clear, I have unashamedly been chasing success as a writer for nigh on ten years. I don’t necessarily mean NYT Bestseller status and squillions of dollars. I don’t pretend I’d hate it if those things came my way, either. I’d like to look at every story I publish and feel as though I’ve done it justice. That would be a lovely feeling of success.
So far, my methods and discipline have been poor, including (but not limited to) procrastination of a near Douglas Adams-esque scale. Distractions abound, and a great deal of them are actually quite important. Every one of those distractions is indeed its own little fork in its own little road. Writing is not heavy lifting but by golly it’s hard to do.
So I suppose my road-fork with “The Three-Day Hump” is a metaphor for my writing as a whole. Which road shall I take from here? And the most important question… is there a way to bring those two paths together?