Agile / Writing

When Plans Go Horribly Wrong: Writing Update 3/17/2013

This sprint was, most definitely, not a good one. There were some huge setbacks in my progress during the last two weeks, and I’ve gone through a range of emotions while dealing with them. I can’t say this is unexpected; in fact, I decided to use Agile partly because I knew there would be problems and I’d have to flexibly deal with them. I did not, however, anticipate issues of this magnitude, and it’s forced some serious re-evaluations of the entire project.

The sprint started off with my first bout of writer’s block. I had completed a scene – the first half of the chapter 2 – and needed to segue to the next scene that would finish it. For the life of me, I could not figure out how. My story had some very dark elements; however, I did not want the book to be overly dark. I had planned segues between dark scenes that would lift the mood and give the reader some respite before heading back into disturbing material. It was in these segues that I was having the most difficulty.

The second problem; I have had a name for my book since the very beginning. When I thought of it, I immediately did searches on Amazon and B&N and was pleased to see that there were no books using the name. However, I decided for some reason to google the term, and found it to be a term for a Mormon phenomenon; my target audience is Christian. I certainly don’t want to alienate Christians from reading my book and disappointing Mormons, so I moved my planned title to “working title” and created a chore to think up a new name.

The third problem, however, was terminal. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, I got the original idea for this book in the mid-to-late 90’s, and had been working it in my mind since then. In the late 2000’s, a book was released that covered very similar territory, and it was a huge hit (selling millions of copies). At the time I was dismayed but felt my story offered a perspective that would offer a unique experience, and could stand on its own without appearing derivative. I had not revisited it since then, and had forgotten much about it. Something told me I needed to re-read it again to make sure that I was still veering clear of its territory, and to my horror, I was coming far closer to its tone than I’d planned. I think that I even inadvertently copied an element from that story. While I don’t think the idea needs to be totally unique, I do feel I need to justify it as a worthwhile venture for people to read. It was harder to justify now.

It took me about three days to walk through the stages of grief.  At first, I thought I could just alter the story to avoid the areas that were too similar and concentrate on those elements that were unique. Well yes, maybe, but the problem is the areas of similarity were what made the character believable. I could not get my main character to where I needed him to be without going through where the other book’s main character went first. To accomplish what I wanted to do, it would require fundamental changes to the plot, main character, and even some of the scenes that I loved, and this would make the story fundamentally different.


So, I finally accepted this new reality and set my mind to reconsidering the story from the ground up. And I think I may have ended up putting together what may even be a better story than my original idea. It has most of the key, unique elements of the original. It does, however, follow a different path that is less dark, eliminates most of the disturbing imagery, and might actually even be a bit funny. I am constructing this story now; hopefully, I’ll have a solid plan after this next sprint and even some writing progress.

I am not giving up on the original idea. I have detailed notes and I may very well revisit it again in the future to see if I can find a unique way to present it. But, for now, it’s on the shelf.

Lessons learned:


  1. Make sure you do a Google search, at least, when coming up with a name or idea.
  2. Be familiar with popular literature in your field that is similar to your work.
  3. Don’t give up hope if you find you aren’t as innovative as you might think.

Back to the drawing board, but I’m still excited. I still want to have my first novel finished by the end of the year, and that goal is definitely not out of reach.

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