What happens when a good story seed goes bad, when a solid plot kernel gets overwritten, over-plotted and overworked until it’s withered into a shell of itself, with little sign of life? Well, if you’re me, you just keep re-writing, re-plotting and re-working until even that last gasp of potential perishes.
Okay, so it’s not really that dire.
But seriously, how do you learn to recognize when enough is enough? This is the question I’m struggling with as I get my life and my writing back on track and try once again to tackle my butt-kicking WIP. (Not butt-kicking like an awesome romantic-suspense heroine taking names and saving the day, but butt-kicking as in this story has been kicking my butt for years.)
Several times over the past few years, I’ve considered putting this story back in the proverbial drawer, but I have solid first draft of book two and a strong sense of how book three will conclude the trilogy. If I don’t wrangle Becca’s story into a marketable story, Darcy and Ronnie will never get their stories told, and I simply can’t live with that option. Which means I have to keep hammering away at Becca’s story until it takes an acceptable shape. Only problem is, now Becca’s story feels like a hammered mess that will never bloom into a compelling novel.
In an attempt to make it work, I’ve drop characters. I’ve added characters. I’ve flushed out backstories. I’ve changed major plot points. I’ve done better research. I’ve attempted to be more raw and honest about such things as abuse, recovery and the nitty-gritty horror of being arrested. I’ve made my heroine more root-for-able and my hero less perfect. And hardest of all, I’ve reigned in a precocious four-year-old scene-stealer.
The one thing I haven’t done? Start over.
Every draft has been a deep edit. Instead of opening a blank document and getting a fresh start, I simply rename my existing document and begin hacking away at it. Lately, the talk around our critique table has been variations on the idea of editing vs retyping vs starting over. It helps to know other writers struggle with the same questions I have.
For me, I like looking into the corner of my document and seeing a high word/page count. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. But if those words/pages aren’t working, is it really an accomplishment?
Jeez, I hate it when I ask myself the hard questions.
My answer? No, it’s not. Some of those words/pages in the original document are over a decade old. My writing, my experience, hell the whole world, has changed between Draft One and Draft Four. Those accumulated words/pages have become a crutch that are keeping me and Becca from achieving our goals.
So for Draft Four, I’ve decided to completely start over. To the point that I’m going to rename my heroine, re-think the character’s backstory, take into account what I already know about Darcy and Ronnie’s stories (and their fellas), and jump into a clean, wordless/pageless document.
And you know what? I’m actually excited about my story for the first time in a long time. I love starting a new project, and what I’ve basically done is given myself permission to shelve Becca’s story without giving up on my original idea seed.
After a ton of soul-searching, I realized that I couldn’t do justice to Becca in a quick relationship. She deserves time to heal, to rediscover herself and to rebuild her life as a strong, independent woman before I throw her into a relationship that will challenge everything she’s become. This is the reason I’ve decided to rename my heroine. Becca will return to the recesses of my writer’s brain and wait until I’ve become the writer and the woman who can handle her story. She deserves nothing less.
And for now, I have Bridget (maybe?), a married gal at the tail end of a bitter divorce who meets her lawyer-hero and begins to believe she can actually have a happily-ever-after – until I (and her bastard ex-husband and a small-time Mafioso) drag her into a criminal conspiracy that threatens her daughter’s life, her man’s career and her freedom.
Wow! Can’t wait to open a blank document and start filling it with words/pages!
Back when her twin sons were young enough for daily naps, Dawn Temple took advantage of those quiet moments to pursue her dream of becoming a published romance writer. Sneaking in an hour here and there paid off in 2005 when she sold her first book, To Have And To Hold, to Silhouette Special Edition. She managed to secret away enough time to write and sell the second book in her Land’s Cross series, Moonlight And Mistletoe, but alas, her boys outgrew naps and Dawn let go of those stolen moments with her laptop to enjoy life with her two little guys and her big guy, hubby of 21 years.
But now, as an officially retired stay-at-home mom, Dawn has once again found the time and the creative drive to return to writing, and this time around, she’s set her sights on independent publishing. Her first self-published book, Peace of Heart, is scheduled for release in 2017.