Today I started writing a blog and about half way through it I stopped, read it and thought ewww (not ahhh like ‘look at that cute baby’, but ewww like ‘what is that on the bottom of my shoe’). I contemplated my next steps, highlighted the entire blog and clicked delete. Was it hard to do? A little. I mean I had spent some time and effort on it after all. But it wasn’t working and I had to let it go.
For a writer rewrites can be painful. Now, I have spent time talking before about editing. But for me rewrites go way further than that. You may need to totally ditch a scene, or a chapter and for a writer that can sometimes feel like cutting off a finger. This is a natural part of creating a story. What seemed to have worked as you wrote it can sink like a stone when you read it later. Maybe the plot progression isn’t working with what you wrote earlier. Maybe the character or characters have evolved into something else entirely and your earlier chapter doesn’t fit anymore.
So like a surgeon you cut away the part that is not working so that the body or manuscript can function the way it is meant to.
In my last manuscript I came up with a great idea but it was about the secondary characters! I plowed forward, writing what I thought at the time was a brilliant plot. And then I read it to my critique group and I received a wake up call. They liked the idea of it, but (there is always a but, isn’t there) one of my critique partners very smartly said, “Whose story are you telling?” And it stopped me cold. To the point that I actually tossed and turned over it at night. What to do? WHAT TO DO?
I met with my critique partner, one-on-one and asked him what he thought I should do. And once again, he gave me very smart advice. You have two choices, he said:
1) If your story is about the original couple then you need to take out all of this subplot (as brilliant as I thought it was) because it is taking over the book OR
2) If you feel that you need to tell the secondary couple’s story first than the first half of your book will need to be re-written. Yes, you read that right, the first HALF of my book.
So I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and I went with option 1. Not because I was copping out, but because the first couple’s story really established the series in my mind and needed to be told first.
So I sucked it up and got rid of the subplot. But here’s the cool thing about writing. You never truly have to erase things if you think you can use them somewhere else. So guess what? The second book in this series is going to be about those secondary characters and I am using a variation of what I had written and pulled out of the first book. Recycling at its finest. Remember that sometimes characters speak to you and order you to tell their story. As the writer you have to let them know to cool their jets until the time is right (or ‘write’, sorry couldn’t help myself. I’ll stop now.)