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Threadbare WIPs And Letting Go Of Stories You Cannot Salvage (For Now)

In the seventh grade, I got a blue hoodie for Christmas. Money was tight that year and my mom found it on the clearance rack at Fashion Bug. It was plain, a cotton cable-knit zip-up, seemingly nothing special—and believe me when I say I lived in it. It was practically a second skin, which astounds Mom to this day. I referred to it as a wearable security blanket because I loved the texture of the yarn in a way I couldn't exactly explain (and it was almost the same shade of blue as the blanket Linus from the Peanuts cartoons is seldom apart from). It was lightweight, making something I threw on pretty much year-round.

It was Old Reliable.

via Poshmark ~ This is not the exact hoodie but the closest image I could find

I wore that thing all through middle and high school. And after a while, it suffered some damage.

The pockets on the front had a habit of coming undone and flopping about like a half-screwed hinge until I could sew them back into place. The drawstring had been tugged out and inchwormed back in with a safety pin regularly. The cuffs were unraveling. The seam of the hood and come apart and been mended more times than I could count, with the stitches looking like the vertebrae on a spine thanks to my not-so-handy-work; it didn't help that I used white thread in a moment of desperation rather than trying to match the blue.

And yet, I packed it with my things and wore it all through college. By graduation, I had worn that poor sweater for just short of a decade. In spite of the many holes and loose threads, the countless and obvious efforts to fix it, I held on to it, convinced it had at least one more year of life. That I could still salvage it somehow.

I didn't want to give up on Old Reliable. I guess that was because it would have felt like giving up on a part of myself, the thing that made me feel safe and comfy in spite of its tendency to fall apart on me.

Speaking of falling, we've once again entered a season respected as a symbol of change and letting go. Kiddos starting a new school year while parents wave from the carpool lane and bus stops. The rustle of gold and orange leaves plucked by the wind and swept to the ground. Thanksgiving gatherings being the start of year-end reflections.

The sentimentality always has me circling back to one writing project I shelved a while ago: Guises to Keep.

It's something I've scarcely talked about on the blog. That's for a few reasons.

I always planned on publishing it under a different pen name than Avril Marie Aalund. It was of a different nature than the things I'm working on nowadays. Though still a Regency Era romance, it was arguably more convoluted than Bound to the Heart, for example—by a landslide.

Summing it up as briefly as I can, it was basically Regency Era Downton Abbey but also kind of soap opera-eqsue. You had the servant characters, (two of the protagonists being a new maid and the stablehand) and the heir apparent grandson of an ailing earl plus some unexpectedly visiting family. The story jumped between the Upstairs and Downstairs casts, with everybody entangled in this central plot while exploring individual side plots. There was the classic inheritance issues found in historical fiction, a fake engagement/marriage of convenience, several interconnected love triangles because it was set in the 1810s but clearly written in the 2010s (if you know, you know), retrospectively toxic love interests, commentary on religion and heavy-handed symbolism...

And did I mention this thing is roughly 180k words and thus OVER SIX HUNDRED PAGES IN MS WORD??

Which, when you figure I was about fourteen when I started handwriting the first draft, is kind of crazy. To this day, I have friends who joke about "the tome" and tag me in any meme involving a comically dense book.

I'm planning a separate post detailing some of the exact reasons this wasn't working, but suffice it to say it's a hot mess.

I spent all of high school and the majority of college hopelessly devoted to GTK. As far as teenage me was concerned, it was supposed to be my magnum opus. The one.

I fixated on drafting and editing. Virtually every speck of free time I had was dedicated to it, apart from my final semester of college which was spent working on Bound to the Heart for the London travel course. It was my identity.

GtK seemed to get more complicated with every draft. There were so many edits I was trying to cram into it. My albeit foolish determination and/or desperation for it to be liked by absolutely everyone ever. My writing was evolving in a way that created stylistic inconsistencies. It felt as though for every plot hole I thought I fixed, three more popped up in its place. Despite the feedback I was getting, I couldn't salvage it.

After about ten years, I finally made the difficult decision to shelve GtK. My threadbare WIP.

Like the Old Reliable Fashion Bug hoodie, I had to set that part of myself aside and move on.

There's a silver lining to this reflection and a reasonably happy ending.

When I was browsing on Poshmark, I happened upon a used cable-knit zip-up Fashion Bug hoodie. The only difference was that it was orange and not Old Reliable Blue.

I've never purchased a piece of clothing so fast. I didn't care that it had bleach stains on one of the cuffs. It was the hoodie.

My hoodie.

After all this time, I had finally found my second skin again.

And in subsequent months I managed to track down the purple and black ones, too!

That's what Bound to the Heart became, later followed by Forged in the Salle

and Against His Vows and the tentatively-titled A Measure of Healing and so many other ideas.

Even though they're vastly different from GtK, they're still mine. In finally letting go of one thing I couldn't fix any further at that time, I've managed to find similar coziness in new places. I'm continuing to build on the skills learned in all of my GtK years and adapt to the new. I'm gradually rediscovering my writing self, throwing all of me into these projects (though not to the fearsomely consumed extent of my youth).

I've already mended the pockets on the orange hoodie and have a spot on the sleeve of the purple one that could use some stitching up. The black one is holding up incredibly well so far.

The blue one, the original Old Reliable, lays tucked in my bedroom closet. I keep telling myself I'll make a pillow or a bag out of its remains. Or maybe I'll finally get into Macrame and use the thread for a decor project.

Meanwhile, GtK exists in various documents across several hardly-functioning laptops while a printed version is stashed in a drawer, set aside mid-edits. It's not scrapped as far as I'm concerned. And I do truly hope I can get back to it, even if it's only for myself.



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