Many years ago I attended a writing conference and one of the authors recommended writing your entire story, then throwing it away and writing it again. The rationale was that writing the first time was to help you get to know the characters. Writing the second time was to finesse it and tease out your theme. I decided that author was crazy. What sane person would trash an entire novel, weeks and months of work, and start over?
This summer I did that. Though not quite to the extreme that the other author suggested.
I’m working on the sequel to Wish You Weren’t and 17K into it, I got bored. I knew how the story started and ended and it was good. But the middle sucked. It sucked so bad I couldn’t write it. How could I possibly expect anyone to read it? I had outlined a little, but there were pieces missing. And those missing pieces were getting to be problematic. So I turned to my tried and true method for figuring things out: a pencil and a notebook.
I don’t know what it is about graphite and paper, but it makes my brain look at things differently than typing on a keyboard. And when I’m stuck, thinking differently is exactly what I need. On those pages I explored my characters, their likes and dislikes, their habits, the ways their lives are woven together, and I discovered a lot about them, things that make their story so much richer. After I’d filled half a notebook with this information, I opened a new, blank document, and started over.
I didn’t completely trash the original. There were pieces I wanted to salvage. But this new version – SO much better!! Now I’m excited to write again. And trust me: that makes all the difference.