Back in 2008, I was proud of my successful completion of NaNoWriMo 2007. I wrote a ninety-five thousand-ish-word superhero story in thirty days, so I was confident and ready to write again. On Nov. 1, 2008, I started Clockwork Cowboy, a western fantasy, which I describe as a Steampunk-Horror-Western. It features London lawman John Slade and his succubus partner Serafina as they track down one of the most notorious and elusive killers of that era: Jack the Ripper. I did a lot of Ripper research in preparation and pulled together resources to help me make the time period feel authentic. In just ten days, I was already twenty-two thousand words into the story and feeling good about it.
Then, on Nov. 11, I awoke to find my wife had died in the night. I spent the next week dealing with the immediate fallout from that life-changing event, and I never recovered my desire to sit down and work on the story. I think I wrote an additional five hundred words on it all month.
Life moved on. I still had the Clockwork Cowboy files, of course, and the story sat there in the back of my mind, percolating. Since shelving Clockwork Cowboy, I finished five other novels, two short stories, started three additional novels, and jotted down notes for a handful more. I would open the files every once in a while, tweak a few lines here and there but never really did anything with it. Last week, though, something changed. I never forgot where I wanted the story to go, and I opened the file again. I started tinkering with it as I read through from the beginning. My writing style has changed a bit since 2008, so I fixed those twenty-two thousand words to bring them up to my current style. I found while reading the story that I still really liked it. Some of the imagery was better than that which I’d written and published since then. When I finished updating the old stuff, I continued writing. In one day, I wrote more new material for Clockwork Cowboy than I had in the previous five to six years combined. After just a few days, I’m up to nearly thirty thousand words and am still inspired to keep going.
I always thought it would be difficult to get back into a story I had more or less abandoned, especially one I hadn’t worked on in over five years. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes stepping away from story with which you’re having trouble can be the best thing for that story. It gives me hope for my other “abandoned” stories, particularly Scars of the Sundering. Maybe the problem isn’t that the story won’t work, it’s just that I need to spend more time thinking about it. Several hundred years ago, I guess we would have said that I’m still trying to find my muse.