The Giant Red Re-do Button.

This morning, a wonderful thing happened and, like most wonderful things, I’m pretty sure it’s also a bat shit crazy. You see, I was trying to think of something to write about in this blog today, since I’ve already done a writer’s quote, I have no books finished, and it’s still not Friday (WHY NOT??). So I considered character motivation. What pulls your characters to pursue the actions they embark on in your book or story? Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been doing a lot of hemming and hawing and explaining and setting up the perfect situation for a series of events to set into motion, and it was bothering me, because it feels unnatural, it feels forced, and having three pages of the characters explaining and debating with each other about their actions, to me, does not make for good reading.

But that’s what I have going on with Serpent in a Cage right now. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay, I can go back and smooth it out later, but I realized that I’m just really not fond of how the events fall into place, either in this new draft or the old draft.

So I think to myself, “Why don’t I just rewrite it from scratch?”

Over two hundred pages in the first draft. 169 handwritten pages in the second draft (albeit small pages from my favorite portable notebooks). And now I want to scrap the whole thing and completely rewrite it?

Yes, yes, YES!

I know the changes I made for the second draft, cutting out perspectives and cutting out characters, significantly helped streamline the book and make it better, but I think I can take it a step further, streamline the whole thing, get all the characters that I had to cut (except maybe one, I’m starting to think she’s pretty much useless in this cycle of plots) back into the game in a more significant way, and it makes the story much more believable, without all the convoluted twists and turns that has me so irritated right now. While the main plot (“We’ve got no cash! Let’s take this job to save this chick so we can get out of this crappy desert place!”) stays the same, the details are changing, the good guys are actually going to be working with the bad guys which could make for a great dynamic that matches the over-arching theme of the Aryneth books (good and evil are not separate, but inexorably intertwined) and gets the end game (captive is rescued and all is well) accomplished as well, though in a much more streamlined manner. It will make the story itself fairly simple and straightforward, which means I can have more fun with making the characters and their motivations exceptional.

I am, in other words, completely stoked about this new approach. It feels like a crime to just completely ditch over three years of work and rework it entirely, but it just hasn’t been working. I’m also not going to jump into this, all guns ablazing. I’m going to put a pause on the current production of Serpent in a Cage, or maybe stab at it a little to cannibalize later (I should really do a post on cannibalizing my writing…), and take the next few days to actually outline (yes, outline) this new plot before I even begin to think about writing those first words. I have a lot of confidence in this new take on the book, though. I know the changes I made last year did wonders for getting the project going again and improving it. I have a feeling that this change is going to do the same, but tenfold.

What do you think? Have you ever completely reworked a project so far into it?? Do you think it’s mad to do so, or that it’s simply a good idea that, if something isn’t working, instead of fighting through to the finish, embrace a new approach? I’m interested to hear any other experiences anyone else has had in a project that just seems to want to keep changing itself. How long did it take until you finally “had it”? Is this common for you? Any advice to share? Let’s hear it! And then I’m going to go on over here and start outlining.

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7 thoughts on “The Giant Red Re-do Button.

  1. I can’t say I have ever completely re-started a big project that far in, but I can say I think you are doing the right thing. The best part about being a writer is you are not working to deadlines or anyone else’s standards (at first) so you can take as long as you need to make the story shine in your eyes and sing in your ears!

    I am, I suppose, re-writing the last third of my current novel because the ending didn’t work and most of it was, honestly, terrible. Nothing compared to the scale of what you are doing, but a little similar. I don’t think about it as wasting old work and starting fresh, but rather learning from past mistakes and improving on what I have.

    1. That’s a really good way of thinking about it, Ben. : ) I know I want this book to be great, and if I’m rewriting it and it’s not great, than I feel really glad I figured out how to potentially make it great. It’s all a lot of trial and error and effort, really!

  2. I would say you are on track just thinking about this. I don’t read Michner and though the movies were great he ruins everything with 16 subplots and the family histories of 16 different families interacting generation after general over 299 years. Like, hello. Where’s the story? You have to hire a manager from that ancestry.com thing to help you read the book.

    1. Ha! I’m a big fan of all that crazy lineology and things like that, too, but I think they’re much better reserved for appendices and the like! Sometimes, I wonder if my stories are too simple because I’d rather have my readers experience all that first hand (the series itself spans over several hundreds of generations, playing on different genres and things like that, too) through several books…

      1. Oooops. Now I feel as dumb as I did when I wrote a post ridiculing cat lovers – ooops I did it again. Well how would I know? The longest thing I write is one sentence to go with a cartoon so I will withdraw from real writing discussions. Then again I have enjoyed Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles series on post Roman Arthurian Britain.

        1. Oh, no, don’t feel dumb! I think there are a lot of ways to go about those grand epics with a ton of history. I just hope my method of going about it isn’t the dry, boring kind. Your input on writing discussion will always be welcome…I usually find the best advice comes from people who aren’t writers at all.

          …I feel I do have to mention being a cat lover, too, though. ; )

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