Rhymes With Smash!

The musings of Megan Paasch, and other stuff.

Cutting My Losses

I’m 40,448 words into my first draft, and I have lost sight of the plot.

I love my characters, and I love several of the scenes that I’ve written, but I can no longer make them work together in a way that makes sense. I think I’ve known for a while, but despite this knowledge, stubbornly pressed on. First drafts are bad, everyone says. A first draft doesn’t have to make sense. Just finish it and fix it later. That’s what editing is for. I agree that this is true, to an extent. But sometimes there comes a point when things are so messed up, it is better to cut your losses.

So, I’m backing off. I am shelving the draft. Not the story, mind you. The draft. I am starting over, and this time, I will do it right. I will keep a lid on my impatience and take the time to do a proper, detailed outline. I will fully flesh out my characters. I will set parameters for my world, rather than figuring them out as I go along. I will map out my locations, set up a timeline, and get to know the full backstory. I will figure out all of the hows and whys.

After I do all of this, and only after, will I start a new first draft. And this time, I will know what is going on, and it will make sense, and it will be great.

I know that this is common sense to many writers. I’ve lost count of the number of articles and blog posts that I’ve read extolling the virtues of proper outlining. I read most of them after I’d already started. I thought I would just finish “pantsing” through the first draft, and then go back and outline before writing the second. Because that makes sense, right? Wrong. I don’t know what I was thinking there.

But it’s all good. I’ve learned my lesson now. Yes, I’m disheartened. But I will get over it. I will not look at my last attempt as a failure or a waste of time. It wasn’t. I have learned so much – SO much – through the process. I have a better sense of my characters now and their relationships with each other. I have a myriad of ideas running through my head on how the story can be improved. And, most importantly, I now know a bit more about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to my personal writing process. This is a good thing. It really is.

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8 thoughts on “Cutting My Losses

  1. Good attitude, and you’re right. It was NOT a waste of time–you honed your writing skills that much more–got to know what your characters would and would not do–figured out the implausible, if regrettably after the fact. But facts can change…and a personal FYI–at one time REMIX was 724 manuscript pages long! Oh so many rewrites ago I’d say it’s now a completely different book (manuscript, really), but I feeeeeeel your pain. 🙂

    • Thank you. Wow, 724 pages!
      I’ve been waffling wondering if I was too hasty. Either way though, I do need to stop and do some better planning, whether I choose to continue with the current draft or start again from the beginning.

  2. I know that can be really frustrating, re starting after alot of effort is in something. Personally, I do not like outlining, it stifles my creativity, but I ahve no problem going back and editing for continuity later on. However every writer has their own path, I am absolutely convinced.

    • Definitely. What works for some doesn’t work for others. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me. It may turn out that this entire outlining deal is too rigid. In fact, I don’t think I would have been able to outline anything before I started that first draft. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to go with it. Now that I’ve written some of it, I have more ideas to work with. So I guess I have kind of a hybrid pantser-outliner method.

  3. I had this problem a lot of the time too, getting into the book and then getting lost in the weeds somewhere along the way. My solution — and it probably doesn’t work for everyone — was not outlining or filling in backstories and locations….but was to just THROW the PLOT out the WINDOW while LAUGHING PSYCHOTICALLY.

    *ahem*

    It turned out I was infinitely happier and more productive if I had an interesting opening situation, some characters I wanted to explore, and then just let whatever happened after that arise organically. All my favorite films tended to operate like that. Many of my favorite books do too. Plot arises naturally without one having to insert a bunch of gears into the book to keep it all turning.

    But, yanno, as with all writing stuff…it applies to me wonderfully, but may do absolutely zilch for anyone else. So I mention all this just to muddy the waters, I guess. 🙂

    • Haha! Love it! Actually, I agree. In fact, the more character development and plot outlining I’ve been doing, the more I’ve been realizing that there’s really only one problem that I MUST figure out before I can continue, and that is the WHY of all of it. I know what’s supposed to happen, and that was working well, but I’m having trouble with the reason for it. It’s not holding water. And my inner critic was nagging at me the entire time – “OK, this is great, but why? Why, why, why?” My answer is too vague, and unfortunately, though you can get away without a why in some cases, this particular story really does need it. So I need to strengthen that. And then maybe I’ll go ahead and jump back into the draft phase and see what happens. Or I’ll continue outlining. Or…well, we’ll see what happens.

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