It seems like only a year ago I was finishing a book that experienced a few bumps along the way…to recap:
a) I was writing my first standalone
b) Everything was going well, then, when I’d reached around the 200ish page, I stumbled upon another book set in the exact same locale with a very similar plot
b2) it was by an author I knew
b3) …an author I’d already asked to blurb this book once I finish it
c) I then had to start basically from scratch (kept the locale, and the first line, but everything else was new)
RESULT: The whole experience from first page of the discarded story to last page of a semi-polished draft of the new direction all took place from beginning of September to end of December last year because I HAD to get it done.
Oh, so…yeah…it WAS a year ago.
Why do I bring this up? Because it just happened again.
Okay, not EXACTLY the same way, but the results were similar.
This time, instead of a standalone, I had this new series I wanted to start. The idea for the first book had been swimming around my head for months, and, for various reasons I’ll go into sometime in the future, the time to write it had come.
I did even more prep work than usual this time, creating a timeline using butcher paper and colored post its. I had characters named, and detailed back stories figured out before I put one word of the actual novel to paper. Then I dove in.
The action scenes were working out great, the settings were intriguing, and the interplay between the main characters was exactly what I’d hoped for.
In no time, I’d written 288 pages. I was going to have the first draft done before Thanksgiving, well ahead of my end of the year deadline.
The problem was, that 288th page? That was the last one I wrote on that version.
Why? Well, the next morning I woke up no longer able to ignore the nagging little voice in the back of my head. It kept repeating the question, “You DO know what kind of book this is becoming, don’t you?” The problem with your mind asking you a question like that is you usually already know the answer. And I did.
I hadn’t been writing the first book of a new series. I’d been writing a book that, with some name changes and a few additions, could easily be the fifth book of my Quinn series. That’s great for Quinn. I now have a massive start on his next adventure. But it sucked for my new guy, because having him be just another Quinn was absolutely NOT what I wanted. And his was the book I needed to write now.
This realization coincided with an out of town conference I had to go to. So I spent the time away letting my mind stew on a solution. My answer? The basic idea behind the story was still useable, it was just everything else had to change, starting with the point of view.
So the following Monday I was back at my desk, starting at the very beginning.
One big change was that instead of writing the story in third person, this new version is entirely in first. This helped me get into my characters head a hell of a lot better than the previous direction had. As for the rest, I thought at first I might be able to salvage some of the work I’d previously done, and use an adjusted version, but that didn’t end up being the case. Turns out there was only one scene I even slightly borrowed from.
But I’ve got to say, since this restart, things have flowed like crazy, and that nagging voice in the back of my head has not made a reappearance.
If everything sticks to my plan, I should be finishing a first, full draft tomorrow. I still have a lot of work to go. There are many things I know I need to add to the next draft, and a ton of things that need to be cleaned up. But I’m well on my way, and this should be done and ready to go not long after the New Year begins. When that happens, you’ll hear a big sigh from the West Coast.
God, I hope this doesn’t happen to me on the next one! If there’s something a new novelist can learn from my experience, it’s that if you really want to be a published author, it’s all about persistence and constantly pushing yourself to be better. I could have just kept going with that first version. I could have been satisfied with a variation on a theme I’d already established. But I don’t want to just cruise or settle or repeat. I want to get better. Always. And sometimes that means going back to the beginning.
So, anyone have writing horror stories you were able to overcome that you’d like to share? Love to hear them!