Saturday, September 13, 2014

Letting go, letting prose fall by the wayside

I'm working on a massive series (9 books in the first 3 trilogies for the first generation, 3 books in the next generation, 3 in the next). I've wanted to write this series for a decade or more and in fact, I have written this series, multiple times. I did several drafts of the first generation and 2 drafts each of the 2nd and 3rd generations.

Those drafts were painful. I just told the story, I didn't "show" the story (authors out there know exactly what I mean). The story was good, the characters were good, but I didn't know then how to write. Now that I have 25 books under my belt, I'm much better able to do this series justice.There were scenes in all of those drafts that I adored. I mean, they were really good and really showed the characters and their motivations and their personalities.

The problem is the characters have changed since I wrote those drafts. The plot has changed somewhat, the motivations have shifted, and now those scenes just don't work anymore. I found myself trying to use some of it in the first trilogy and it was so freakin' painful.

So I went back, looked through ALL the masses of paper copies, and circled what to keep and tossed the rest. Then I filed them. Then I took all those electronic drafts and I tucked them into one big folder and I filed it on the D drive of my computer (where I never go).

Now I was faced with fresh pages and some of those scenes still stick in my head, but now I can use them as jumping-off places for these "new" characters.

Letting it fall by the wayside was tough, but I had to do it. And someday, when I'm old and gray, maybe I'll dig around in that D drive and have a chuckle reading those old drafts.


(still writing after all these years)


Jannine Gallant said...

Trying to rewrite old work is EXTREMELY painful. Took me 8 months to revamp An Uncertain Destiny from a pile of paper under my desk. I could have started from scratch and written the book in less time. But it's hard to let those old ideas and characters go--even if we were awful writers when we invented them!

Margo Hoornstra said...

So far I've tried to rework three OLD manuscripts. Only one was successful - as in sold. And even then the story line changed drastically. It is painful to let such hard work go. Let's face it, no matter how bad we were, I'd venture to say we still put our hearts and souls into the words.

Diane Burton said...

I feel your pain. It is so much easier to write fresh than to rewrite an old manuscript (says the voice of experience). I could never throw out what I'd written years ago. Like you, I'd probably dump it all into a big file and hide it somewhere.

Alicia Dean said...

Sounds like a massive undertaking! I know what you mean about revising old manuscripts. My first novel was a decent story, but like you said, i didn't know how to write. I keep thinking one of these days I might dust it off and see if I can whip it into shape, but probably not until the new ideas stop coming. :) Good luck, I'm sure once you get done, it will be a fantastic series. Yes, it is difficult to let our scenes and drafts fall by the wayside, but sometimes it's necessary. It's also easier once you have some experience. New writers really REALLY hate to let go of scenes or sections they've written. :)

Leah St. James said...

I think we all have those first manuscripts tucked away somewhere. I plan to reuse a few characters, and maybe one gruesome death scene :-), but that's about it. It served its purpose. It let me know I had LOTS to learn. :-) Your series though, that's MASSIVE. Sounds like you've reached a great compromise.