Alright, so I know that there’s nothing more annoying than a writer complaining about their process, but please bear with me. I feel like I’ve learned something really important and want to share my revelation with you lovely people.
Well, because I want to, mainly. Also, because I feel like this advice isn’t shared very often and it should be.
I’ve been working on a novel ever since August of last year, called Takeover. This novel was a really big step for me as a writer, even though it will never see the light of day. It has so far been the largest work I’ve ever written, clocking in at 25k upon completion. It was a science fiction novel and one that I love dearly.
And today, we broke up.
As writers, we often hear that the writing is in rewriting, and I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly–in certain circumstances. So, today, I want to talk about breaking up with your manuscript, starting a fling with a new story, and being okay with that.
- When You Should Let Go
I completed my first draft of Takeover in January and decided to read through it. To my dismay, there were a total of 5 scenes in the entire thing, plot holes were plentiful, and the decision to use first person POV was, uh…unfortunate.
But, I’d written it. I’d written 25,000 words. They were there, in my hand, and it was the greatest high ever! ‘But’, I reasoned, ‘if I’m this happy about completing this story, that must mean that I should work on it until it’s publishable!’
In the name of love and hopeful publication, I dissected my story, used the Snowflake method to figure out a more cohesive plot, and began the arduous process of completely rewriting the story.
Three months later, the love has taken a turn for the worse. I’m tired of the story, tired of my characters, and just really wishing to move on.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I learned a lot of really great things writing Takeover, but the sparkle is gone, and the story is done. Doing anything more would only poison the well, so to speak.
Your first love doesn’t have to be forever.
- New Experiences and Stories
I’m not the same person that I was last August. I’ve written short stories since then, done writing prompts, and realized that I don’t have to write a whole novel to figure out my favorite writing genre. I love writing fantasy, not sci-fi.
By not giving up on Takeover, I was cheating myself of the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. By treating it like some sort of experimental Frankenstein monster, I thought I’d find my process. It doesn’t work that way. When working from the Snowflake method on Takeover, it was easy since I’d already done most of the work. On my new story? Not so easy.
Allowing yourself to try new experiences and new stories doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your old one. It just means that you’re allowing yourself to evolve as a writer.
What fit me back then doesn’t fit me now, and that’s okay.
- Being Okay With Moving On
One of the big things that I had to realize, and one of the major reasons why I’m giving up on my story, is because I look at my draft of Takeover and I see future potential rather than present potential. I can see other stories that I don’t have the skill to write yet, but will be able to write one day. I see ideas and bits that I know will be included in my later works.
Each story is a learning experience. Every outline, snippet of dialogue, type of character, and type of writing helps you become a better writer. Whether it’s a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’ doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re learning how to fix mistakes, make more mistakes, and overcome obstacles in the process of discovering your passion for the craft.
So, own that. Don’t get so caught up in finishing a ‘proper’ novel that you forget that you’re learning. Finish the story you’re on and move on to the next. Try to make the next just a little bit better, and make the one after that one a bit better, as well.
Remember, this writing thing is a marathon, not a race.