There are times in writing when you just have to take a step back and start from the beginning. Now, I don’t mean erased the hard drive, hide the notes, and open a new document on the old word processor. That would be counterproductive, I would think. No, what I mean is that sometimes in the excitement of getting your ideas down onto the page, you might have rushed a bit or you might have gotten off on yet another tangent. That’s okay. It can–and usually does–happen. That’s part of the process.
So what do you do now? You gotten the entire first draft done and realize that 1) one of your main characters lied to you about a major plot item and 2) another character didn’t tell you his biggest secret until after everything was said and done. These are major changes, not just some minor spelling error or a rearrangement of a few paragraphs. This is a huge deal. Oh, and by the way, now you missed the plot points by chapters (okay, you might have hit them with the earlier revelations, but now, things have changed). Now, you have to go back, rearrange your plot structure, and stare at a gaping hole in the middle of the entire book.
Not that it happened to me…wink, wink.
You have this hole, not only in your plot, but in your heart. All the work, time, and tears that you spent seems to be wasted. Nothing is useful. You just want to go to the computer and hit the delete button on the file and pick up the pieces of your heart as it lies palpitating on your desktop in a pool of its own blood.
I’m really not bitter.
I look at it as an opportunity to grow. I learned a valuable lesson here. Sometimes, it’s good to go back to the beginning. The difference? You now have many more pieces of your puzzle to start. You have choices. Many of which were not known or available to you at the time you begin your opus. You can change the thing that bothered you the most during the actual writing. You are free to change directions, move things around, and play with your ideas.
This is not the first time I’ve felt this way. My first novel, Copper Rain, was like this, but instead of acting on my impulse to start from the beginning, I simply grabbed a new document and started over. And over. And over.
Therein, lay the problem.
When I say start from the beginning, I mean grab whatever tools I used to get my ideas down. In this case, I used a program called Snowflake Pro. I started with the germ of the original idea expanding it out until I had a single page of summary. I found the issue that bothered my while I wrote the second draft (I had already written the first draft a while ago). Because I’m still in the middle of this process, I can only go with what I plan on doing to fix what I perceived as being “wrong” with the story.
I put wrong inside of quotations because I really don’t think a regular reader would find anything wrong with the story. It might be perfectly fine for their purposes of entertainment. I certainly would think that the only things that were wrong with it was where I put the midpoint. With the new revelations, though, I have to seriously reconsider where my midpoint was and adjust the other plot points accordingly.
I might be able to salvage at least 75,000 words, maybe even more. That’s not the point. The point is I am not going to fall into a heap of despair and resentment because what I have doesn’t work anymore. I’m beyond that. This story is salvageable, useable and totally fixable.
So, when you think you have a jumbled mess (which is quite possible as a pantser), take it as your first outline (albeit, a really long and detailed outline), use it to rebuild your house of words, and continue on as if you’d never stopped. Soon, you’ll find that your foundation will be much stronger and your supports will hold more weight that it ever would have before.
I hope this helps someone so they don’t despair and give up the dream that all writers have in their hearts. And as always, happy writing!