ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Angel Luis Colón is the author of NO HAPPY ENDINGS, THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR, and the upcoming short story anthology; MEAT CITY ON FIRE (AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES). He’s an editor for Shotgun Honey, has been nominated for the Derringer Award, and published stories in multiple web and print pubs such as Thuglit, Literary Orphans, All Due Respect, RT Book Reviews, and The LA Review of Books. He’s currently repped by Foundry Literary + Media.
Find Angel on Twitter.
It was probably day three of researching the common methods and policies regarding sperm freezing (cryopreservation, general policy, extraction methods – yes, there is more than one way to do this) that I stopped myself short and asked a simple question:
Why the hell am I doing this?
Whenever I write a novella or novel, I usually start by writing a single sentence about the concept. That can boil down to the theme or whatever the gimmick may be. For my latest release, No Happy Endings, it was a punchline, ‘death by bukkake’, that got this, um, ball rolling so to speak.
So I decided to write a crime story about a sperm bank robbery. A quick, 3-4,000 word tale that I could sell to a mag of low moral standing. Still, this wasn’t a subject I was well-versed in—shocker—so a little research was going to be necessary.
1) Glycerol is used a cryoprotectant for sperm but it can be supplemented with egg yolk!
2) There are specific methods for thawing that generally have to be followed to the letter or else those poor swimmers won’t be swimming again.
3) You can actually refreeze specimens.
4) For some reason cow semen is super popular.
So again, I had to ask myself what the point of this project was. Would I write a story in service to a single gross kill? Plenty of people have done that and it can certainly work but while going pulpy and low brow is a lot of fun, I sort of felt like I was going a little too blue.
So I gave up on the piece. I literally deleted it and didn’t bother to think about it for a solid year.
I moved on to other projects. I wrote The Fury of Black Jaguar to general agreement that it is a book that exists and found myself with an itch to write another Blacky Jaguar story. I entertained the idea of a heist novel and my mind went back to that sperm heist story. A character like Blacky would certainly align with the crude humor.
So I wrote 10,000 words and I hated every minute.
Then I quit—deleted and all—again.
I moved on. I wrote some more shorts, I wrote two novels (unpublished, someone buy them) and I continued on my way.
On a run one day, my mind began to wander and that damn sperm bank heist popped back up again. This time, though, there was something else there. Not that this was an epiphany but there was a certain ‘AHA!’ quality to that moment. I stopped thinking of the gimmick and started crafting the character that would become my lead, Fantine Park. By the time I was finished with that run, I mentally outlined an entire novella and the joke was no longer the focus—a father/daughter relationship was.
My point, which only took 500 words to get to, is the book wouldn’t exist without my willingness to completely surrender; to quit on the project. All too often we’re told that we should finish what we start, that when a project becomes difficult, we should power on through. Sure, that’s fantastic advice if you’ve got a deadline or someone already paid you for a product they expect within a tight turnaround, but why should we apply that pressure to ourselves when we’re struggling with a piece that hasn’t found a home or exists as an experiment? Is there virtue in saying, hey, I totally didn’t quit on this weird, awkward story about baby otters that solve mysteries at an abandoned aquarium?
Wait, I need to take note of that. That’s an awesome idea.
Back on track, no, we shouldn’t always try to stick the landing. All too often we can find ourselves mid leap, heading into the fire with the only escape being to bail out and we don’t. There’s fallout from that too. We find ourselves demoralized, tired, and stressed— all factors that do not help future projects.
So why not quit? Why not detach completely and see if the idea has the legs to outlive your quitting ways? Maybe it’s the idea that needs to prove its worth, not our willingness to sloppily committing to paper where it can remain in exile for the rest of your writing life.
I think that ultimately, what matters is your writing health. There’s benefit in not climbing the walls because a concept or a chapter will not work. There’s benefit in not only taking a step back but closing the damn door and driving a few miles away.
Or you can do whatever it is you currently do. Whatever. I’m sort of done trying to convince you otherwise.
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE YOURSELF NOT TO GIVE UP? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of NO HAPPY ENDINGS! (US entrants only, please.)
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