What Do You Mean, I May Have to Scrap It All?

For a few years now, I’ve been working on a les-fic romance novel. I have a completed draft, and I know it has flaws.

I’ve been struggling for over a year to find and fix all of its flaws.

At first, I struggled with the revision process because I never really learned how to revise my own work. That’s still a challenge for me, but I think I’m getting better at seeing the problems with my writing and finding solutions. At least, I’m doing better with that process on short stories.

But revising this novel is still a slog. At least half a dozen times, I thought that this was just a manuscript to shove into a box and forget about (much like my first attempt at a novel, when I tried writing a murder mystery).

And yet, I can’t bring myself to abandon this book. Sometimes, I think I’ll never learn to revise my work properly if I don’t push through this project. Other times, I’ll re-read a section of it and remember why I was so excited by these characters and the setting.

It still has its hooks in me, and I can’t seem to get all of its claws detached at the same time.

I follow a lot of different writers’ blogs and some writing school websites. Over the past month or so, a number of these writerly resources have posted an article about someone scrapping a version of a book to completely re-write it from scratch.

Each post talks about how the writers struggled to fix all the holes in the book. How characters had changed so much that trying to find and correct all their different iterations just wasn’t working.

In each case, the writer took the core of the book—that is, the initial idea about what the story was about—and started a completely fresh, new version of that without retaining any of the old material.

These writers found that completely starting over was what they needed to do. If they’d just tried to patch, revise, and repair, it was just a crappy, unstable structure. To use a construction metaphor, unless they tore the house completely down to the ground and started with a fresh set of blueprints and new framework, it was always going to be a rickety shack with gaping holes in the walls and a leaky roof.

The first time I encountered that suggestion, I dismissed it. But seeing it four, five, and six times in less than a month can’t be mere coincidence (or perhaps it can, if you don’t believe in coincidences, kismet, and so forth).

Anyway, I find myself thinking that what I’ll have to do with this book is to place the entire current draft into a “kill my darlings” folder, write a fresh outline with the core of the story I want to tell, and rewrite it. Every. Single. Stinking. Word.

I gotta tell ya, that idea scares me completely out of my wits. I wasn’t sure I could complete a first draft of this book. I haven’t been able to get through a complete round of revisions on it because I’m never sure how to fix all its flaws.

Starting all over is from a blank page after all these years of work is daunting. But I think it’s what I have to do.

I’m still not sure that my revision skills are strong enough for writing a novel. But I’m trying to improve them by writing short stories and submitting them to contests and calls for submission.

Now, to find the courage to move my active WIP folder to the KMD folder and start fresh.

Gulp.

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