You Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em
I've been writing, on and off, for nearly twenty years. And while at times deadlines have nearly killed me, while I've spent literal years on a project only to have it dismissed out of hand, while I've sacrificed my health, my money, my family, and my sanity...
Where was I going with this? Right. I've never abandoned a project without finishing it. No matter how hopeless it seemed, no matter how my eyes bled, no matter how demanding my creditors became, I would at least finish one draft of my manuscript. I never gave up once.
A couple of years ago, I hit upon a highly original idea. What if I were to rewrite Dante's Inferno, only to populate it with villains who died in the past 700 years? People the reader might actually have heard of?
I set right to work. Instead of Virgil leading Dante, it would be Leonardo da Vinci. All the monsters of hell would be humans, wearing the sports jersey that most matched their description in Dante's work: Devils, Saints, Giants, Bears, etc. We'd get to see bastards like Henry VIII and Ida Amin get this just reward, and cap it all off with Hitler being devoured by Satan. Oh, this was a winner.
What I forgot is that no one really reads Dante anymore. My writers' group was utterly baffled by what I was trying to do, often ironically criticizing me for sounding too much like the original work. After about a hundred pages, they all informed me that they couldn't even figure out what the plot was. Plus my main character was unlikable.
I showed the MS to my agent. She said basically the same thing.
And so I abandoned young Dante being mocked by the spirits of Manson, Crowley, Jim Jones, and David Koresh, in the graves of the heretics in the city of Dis.