A tiny little snippet of an idea came into my head in April of 2010: A girl wakes up alone in a hospital bed, and has no idea who she is.
I had no idea who she was either, so that page or so of a beginning went nowhere for more than two years. I liked it though, and mentally returned to it every once in a while, expanding things, wondering, inventing. Last fall I suddenly had enough idea to start writing.
And oh boy, did I write.
I think one day I wrote an entire chapter, or close enough. I made it to chapter 6 before running out of gas, but those 5+ chapters only took a few weeks to write, which is astounding for me. Lately, anyway.
The initial basic outline was that this girl wakes up in the hospital with amnesia. Her mother soon arrives to claim her and take her home, where soon some oddities come to light. Eventually the girl realizes that this woman is not her mother, but has more nefarious plans in store. Mwa ha ha.
That's how it started. Continuing it required some why and how. What turned out was that this girls' father was a scientist, working on some kind of device to control a person's memory. Evildoers tried to get their hands on it, the father was killed, and turned the device on his own daughter to erase her memory in an attempt to protect her. During the course of the story, her mother and brother eventually turn up, trying to rescue her. All is well in the end, etc.
So I started writing it last October or so, and almost immediately started making the mother more complex, more sympathetic. Not just a villain. This was great for characterization, because when she starts to like the girl too it made for some excellent drama.
Then I began to think, Hm, okay, maybe she's not the villain. Maybe she's just, oh, holding the girl in a safe location until her memory returns! Yeah! Hopefully returns, they think.
Great! Unfortunately, this pretty much killed the story dead in its tracks. Suddenly I had no antagonist, and no antagonist means there's nothing for the hero to strive against. Sure, there could be bad guys trying to do her harm, but I had already introduced other kids from her school; an allegedly deceased "father" she grieved for; and some faceless attackers for her to run from. In other words, the story was getting crowded without adding more black hat types.
I could go back and make the false mother the villain again, but then I wouldn't be able to use this really cool and dramatic reveal I'd worked up late in the book, and also I really liked this character. This happened years ago, with a minor character from the never finished Price of the Rug: I created a character whose purpose was to be killed to advance the plot, and instead I started to like her and spared her life.
In other words, I can't go back now and make the mother a villain. And so...I'm stuck again. I presume I'll figure something out, one of these days. I usually do. And in the meantime, I have 5+ decent chapters to work off of. I guess that having too many pots on the stove is better than having none at all...right?