Stick Figures

First Draft Manuscript Goes Up In a Glorious Blaze

imageYesterday, I dumped 16,000 words of my latest WIP in my never-to-return folder and started over again.  Did the writing suck?  I like to think not, but I’d gotten to the point that I could see a better way to write the book.  When this happens, dump the old manuscript and start over from scratch.  You will thank yourself.

Really, 16,000 words isn’t a big deal. I’ve rewritten entire books (one of them twice).  This time, it came to me that I could strengthen the entire story if I changed the basic make-up of my antagonist.

“What?” you say.  “You’re changing the entire story to work around your antagonist?” Well…yeah.  As a serial revisionist, I make changes to my manuscripts all the time, but there was no way to work around something this big.  Here are the reasons:

  1. My characters’ actions are married to the plot—antagonists included.  If the antagonist does something differently or is a different person altogether, the plot must change.
  2. The major antagonist’s traits echo the protagonist in some ways (personal preference), so when he changes, she must change.
  3. If the protagonist changes in her desires and actions—even small shifts—the plot is directly affected in fundamental ways.

I know I don’t have to do the above—that my characters’ basic make-up and the plot do not need to be so closely connected…but I can’t help myself.  I am not a writer who sits down and speedily bangs out a book (though instinct and discovery writing definitely have their place in the drafting process).  I am a writer who spaces out while leaning over blank notebook pages, and—let’s be honest—at various other points during my day.  Only after weeks of this daydreaminig will I sit down and begin to write about characters, settings, plot points, experimental scenes, etc. in a notebook.  Often, I’ll write through half the notebook and start over again because I figured out a better way to plot it—a way in which everything was connected. Then, and only then, do I begin drafting.

And now I’ll start over again.  Happily. 🙂

Have you ever burned it all to the ground and started from scratch?  Share below!


33 thoughts on “First Draft Manuscript Goes Up In a Glorious Blaze

  1. I don’t think I have ever completely burned a story down and started over from scratch. I do make revisions as I go, but I try to resist the impulse– my instinct is to finish the draft and then do major revisions. This is what I am doing with my current WIP.

    I do not suppose, however, that this is a rule for everyone. Each writer needs find their own process and stick to it.

    1. Writing to the end is usually my impulse, too, but it just didn’t make sense with the changes I wanted to make. I don’t think I’ll burn it down again though. Everything fits together so much better now. 🙂

      1. Too lazy 🙂 perhaps in few decades when I retire 🙂 till such time I will read and write humble jumbles 🙂

  2. I had to do major revisions on my first book since I pantsed my way through it. My last one was much smoother since I put together a strong outline first. That’s what I’m currently doing with my new WIP, too (which I touch on in my blog post tomorrow). I know that technique isn’t for everyone, but it works well for me. Whatever gets us in that chair, right? 🙂

  3. I write in much smaller chunks than book, so the sunk cost of starting over is lower for me, but I discard a lot when writing. Usually for the same kind of reasons: one character will say something that changes the whole thrust of the story, and suddenly it’s not about the frontiers of astrophysics, it’s about a little girl with a crayon. The story I’m working on now was completely hijacked by a single letter in one word. But when I did improv, the motto was “yes, and…”, so I go where the words take me.

  4. Definitely all the time. I wrote my published book 3 times. The first time served as a purge. The second time I tried writing it as Fiction. The third, nonfiction. The entire process took ten years. Writing is difficult for me but most of all I wanted to be certain that once it was published, I didn’t regret anything in the morning. 😀 Best of luck with your new approach!

    PS Did you watch the premier of The Cosmos last night with Neil deGrasse Tyson? 😀

      1. Aw bummer. But I’m certain there’s a way. You might check National Geographic online? Maybe? Hopefully Netflix. We’ve had a week’s worth of cable trouble after going from satellite to cable. But our neighbor told us about an antenna he bought at Costco for $30. I looked it up and it looks very interesting. No monthly fees or contract or anything. I thought about blogging about it… ;D Our neighbor loves it.

    1. This new one has to do with a girl with one goal in life: get out of her hometown, but her unfortunate supernatural powers/outsiders with their own powers seem to be conspiring to keep her there. That’s all I’ll say at this point. Thanks for asking!

  5. Dumping so many words can be hard but good for you for doing it. Writing is all about cutting words to make your story stronger, and sometimes lots of words have to be cut in order to do it. I recently rewrote the YA sci-fi I am working on. It is the first in a series and I had 60,000 words of book 2 written as well, which I had to scrap completely because the plot had gone in an entire different direction.

    Good luck with your WIP 🙂

    1. Thank you! I recently went to a writing conference, and one of the things that stuck with me was a comment about how the best writers are really good editors. Good luck with your manuscript as well!

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