Thursday, March 25, 2010

by Dave White

I recently did something I've never done before.

I took a novel I was 70 pages into writing and started it over. I didn't hate what I had written earlier, and I didn't lose the file. In fact, I think it has a great premise, but it was lacking something in those first pages.

And, I think I know what it is.

In opening drafts, I often find myself following a formula. Characters fall into the old tricks of the genre and the story, while it has it's moments, ends up being same old same old. I know what a thriller is SUPPOSED to look like and when I hit a road block, I take the easy way out.

Often, I tried to edit and re-write that out of my drafts in subsequent rewrites.

But this novel, the original one, I was hitting EVERY beat. And it felt forced. I would write myself into a corner and another corner and another corner, to the point where I stopped writing it.

For weeks.

I hate when that happens, too. I feel less and less like a writer, and my focus goes elsewhere (though I do get tense, as I wrote a few weeks ago).

So I had to jumpstart things.

So I started over. I got some new inspiration, looked at a character differently, and am going to try again.

It's slow going right now, but we'll see how it turns out.

Have you ever started a novel over? Reading one or writing one?


pattinase (abbott) said...

Lots of times I will begin to read a novel and become distracted and lose track of characters, events. If I believe it to be a good novel, I will often start again. But if my distraction comes from a poorly written book or an uninteresting premise, I don't. I only finish about 20% of the books I start. A function of my age, I think.
And I very often start stories over, realizing I was starting at the wrong point, or with the wrong person. Or it was too damned boring.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, I have abandonded novels after writing 70 pages. A few times.

I've also used bits and pieces of the discarded novels in other stuff.

So keep the file.

The first time I started reading James Ellroy's American Tabloid I gave up after abou fifty pages. A few years later I went back and read the whole thing and loved it.

Dana King said...

Yes to both.

I once got almost 100 pages into a novel and decided I didn't like where it was going and started over. I re-used about 25% of what I'd already written, and saved the file for parts if I needed them later.

I started reading DR. ZHIVAGO three times. Each time I quit a little sooner until I ultimately stopped reading before I started and solved the problem.

Scott D. Parker said...

I started novel #2 three different times with two different characters. Takes 2 and 3 were much better since I changed out the protagonist. Wrote myself into a corner and then put it aside to focus on novel #3. Still have all the separate files, all annotated with what went wrong and ideas on fixes. I delete nothing.