I’ve experienced yet again the miracle of manure, of starting from scratch, and following the zing.
This last week I’ve been rewriting a beginning to a novel. It’s a bit tricky because I can’t just rewrite it without constraint. Such a rewrite would cause massive changes to everything else in the book. In fact, a complete, unfettered rewrite of a beginning might end up requiring a totally different book. But Tor bought the book in hand. Besides, I don’t have time for a total rewrite even if they did want one. So the new beginning had to fit into the rest of the current story.
At three different spots where this beginning needed significant changes I have had to write a pile of cow crap because it’s all I had in me at the time. I knew I couldn’t use those plops when I finished them. But there they were.
The problem was compounded by my reading the recent Time article about Stephenie Meyer and starting to listen to Empire by Card. I have a weakness for comparing myself to others, and this time the comparison yeilded some depressing results.
Then I asked myself what wasn’t working and how I might meet the goals of those scenes a bit better. I followed my heart. But in all three cases I had to stop trying to use the brilliant words I had written originally. Not the cow crap revision, but the original stuff.
I’m not talking about the general prescription that we writers need to “murder our darlings” because the darlings are usually bad writing. I find general prescriptions to be wrong much of the time and that one in particular to make no sense at all.
In this case one of the things I had to jettison was a beginning segment that had compelled 90% of the readers who glanced at it to read more. A beginning page that snagged agents and editors. A beginning page I still loved, even after reading it as many times as I had.
But it just wouldn’t fit, couldn’t fit with the new structure. When I tried to hang onto it, I wrote crap. Which was fine. There was some good stuff in the crap. But I eventually had to trust myself and come up with something else completely.
And while I don’t know if it’s going to suck readers in like the original, I think it’s pretty dang good. Back before Card’s boot camp I would have never made it to this point. I would have given up. But this is just the process for me now. It took some time to learn and trust it. But now I know that while sometimes I can write hot. There’s no reason to despair if I don’t. Sometimes it takes a few tries before I get to the good stuff.
As for Meyer and Card, well, it’s not my goal to be a one-trick pony, now, is it. 🙂