Yesterday, I said I thought I needed to cut 30K words. I wasn’t quite ready to give up on them yet, you see, and I was still hoping to make them work somehow.
But then I came to the realization the book was moving forward so well when I was writing all new stuff that I realized those 30K words really had to go. Yeah, it’s a setback. A blow.
But sometimes you have to do it, friends. If it’s not working, no matter how pretty the prose, then it has to go. The story I wrote was perfectly fine — for another line. It’s not a Presents as I wrote it. Why? Well, I have an American former military hero and my knowledge of the military got in the way of my knowledge of what a Presents should be. I don’t see the two going together at all, so it just didn’t work no matter how hard I tried to be true to both.
What is the solution? Obviously, this story is a Presents. So I have to forget what I know about the military and make this guy be what Presents heroes always are. Rich, fabulous, arrogant, etc.
And that requires chucking the entire last half of the book and rewriting it. Of course I’m not happy about it, but this is what you do when you have to get the work done.
I once knew someone who had been working on the same novel, her first, for about six years. She hadn’t written anything else, just that one book. And she kept workshopping it to death. Taking it to writing groups, listening to all the crazy advice about passive voice and adverbs and etc (not that all that advice is crazy, but when it’s what gets focused on to the exclusion of story, it IS crazy. Not to mention so many writers don’t even know what passive voice really is and they get it wrong) and changing the book to satisfy an endless group of people.
I believe she even hired a copy editor. Not a developmental editor, but a copy editor to help her polish that prose. Because she was so focused on the idea her words needed fixing that she couldn’t understand the words might be perfectly fine — but they might be the WRONG words. The wrong story.
Sometimes, you have to cut the words and move on. You can save them in another file (I always do) and mine them if you need to. But I think once you get going on that new draft, you won’t want the old words. You’ll find new ways to say things–not to mention your characters will be in new situations, perhaps even different people now.
It’s not a failure when you realize you have to start over. It’s a hard lesson, no doubt about it, and it’s frustrating as hell. But you can’t keep going over the same set of words, the same story, for years and try to make it work. Wouldn’t it just be easier to start over?
A few blog posts ago, I gave y’all an excerpt of my single title contemporary military romance. That book is with an editor now, and I hope to get it done and available in the next 2 to 3 months. But want to know a dirty little secret about that book?
I started it eight years ago. I wrote it one way. It was terrible. I rewrote it. And then I rewrote it again. And I mean chucking it all and starting over. Four years ago, I sold to Harlequin, and I put it away. I’d rewritten it three times by then. Last year, I pulled it out again and started working on it. Not a rewrite, because it was much closer now, but a real revision. Deadlines got in my way, but I finally finished that revision and got the book to an editor. Not a copy editor, because I recognize the book may still need more changes.
By the time you’re able to read this book, it will have been rewritten several times and revised a couple times more. That’s me being stubborn and believing in the story, sure, but it’s also me being a professional. You must be willing to kill your darlings. When the story isn’t working, don’t keep trying to patch it up and move on. Start again. It may be as simple as reworking a character’s conflict — or as complicated as chucking it all and starting over.
Not every story needs to be completely rewritten. But if you’ve been staring at the same words for weeks and having trouble moving forward, you may just need a fresh start. Don’t be afraid. Go for it!