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.