No, not in life, though sometimes starting a new chapter of one’s life can be great. You never know what you might find.
I’m not blogging about philosophy today, though. I’m blogging about writing romance novels, and that’s what this post is about. Starting a novel over.
Now, starting a new novel or story can be difficult enough. Coming up with a plot, characters, etc., and then staring at that blank computer monitor or piece of paper, can take a lot of energy. If you’re fortunate, once you’ve gotten through the preliminaries, the story flows.
But what if it flows in the wrong direction? What if your characters start doing things you hadn’t planned on, or things that don’t have anything to do with the plot you’re trying to write? What if your dialogue makes no sense, or the action is completely wrong for the people you’re writing about?
What if you’re trying to write a romance, and by chapter ten you still haven’ t managed to get your hero and heroine to kiss, never mind have sex?
That’s when you take a good, long look at your story, give your characters a heartfelt lecture, and scrap most of what you’ve written.
Let me tell you, getting rid of 30,000 words that you’ve spent hours creating is not the easiest thing in the world. I’ve had to do it twice so far. Once with my novella Deep Down, which was the one in which the hero and heroine refused to kiss. I’d written 90 pages at that point, and I ended up trashing all but about ten of them. It was worth it; Siren Publishing released Deep Down in January. But it really hurt having to delete all the writing that I’d spent so much time on.
I just had to do the same thing with the romance novel I’m currently working on. I’d written about 43,000 words, and when I thought about it, I realized that about 30,000 of them had absolutely nothing to do with the story I wanted to tell. Those words didn’t move the plot forward, didn’t give any insight into the characters… they were just kind of there. So I got rid of them. I couldn’t quite bring myself to delete them entirely; I copied and pasted them into a new document just so I’d still have them. They didn’t fit in this story, but I might be able to use them somewhere else later on. Meanwhile, what I’m left with will hopefully actually become the story I want.
Part of the reason I encounter this phenomenon is that I’m what’s sometimes called a “pantster.” In other words, instead of spending a lot of time plotting and planning my stories, I come up with a basic idea and characters and then write “by the seat of my pants,” so to speak. This occasionally leads to really great stories where unexpected things happen that improve the story vastly over what I’d thought it would be. Unfortunately, it occasionally leads to my having to scrap two thirds of what I’ve written because I didn’t have a clear enough idea of where I wanted the story to go.
So I sit here this morning trying to rebuild my story from the ashes of what it was. It’s going to be much better. The hero doesn’t have a superfluous car accident that only happened because I was trying to get words down on the page. The hero and heroine actually spend time working together like they’re supposed to, and will probably even kiss a little sooner than chapter seven, which is where their first kiss occurred in what I scrapped. I’ve trimmed off everything that didn’t move the plot to where I thought it should go, and now I’m trying to put in stuff that actually takes the reader where it’s supposed to.
Hopefully this time, the characters will cooperate with me and I’ll finish the story before my April 17 wedding, as planned. If not, I’ll just scrap it again.
And start something entirely different.