Time to Scrap Writing a Project?


Sometimes the only place to send a WIP is to the (figurative) trash bin. Sad, but true. Remember, though, don’t ever totally discard a piece of writing! You can maybe salvage ideas, scraps, and characters for a later work.

Before I wrote the first draft of “The King’s Sons,” the last novel in my Herezoth trilogy, I wrote a hundred pages of what I thought would be the next installment, perhaps novel three of four. Turns out, NOPE. After a hundred pages and months of work, I started again. Completely. There was something that just wasn’t working. So, what were the signs I needed a fresh beginning? Be wary of the following signals if you find them afflicting your WIP:

  1. 1oo PAGES IN, AND I STILL FELT RUDDERLESS. I never write with an outline, but well after 60,000 words, I still didn’t know what I was doing. Where I was headed. I didn’t have a clear grasp of the story’s villain and I didn’t have a clue how he would react to the good guys coming after him: that sense of confusion had never happened to me before. Some things that should have been mysterious I had made too clear too early, and what mysteries remained I was unsure how to solve. It was just a painful situation. Not growing pains bad, death pangs bad. There’s a huge difference. Growing pangs are ok. I could tell there would be no working through this.
  2. IT WAS TOO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT I NORMALLY WRITE. While it is always good to branch out and try new things, I needed to remember this book was part of a series. That’s not the place for grand experimentation. It was TOO different from the tone and the style of the others. The first novels had much more action, especially “The Crimson League,” book one. After 100 pages of this WIP in Microsoft Word, I had no action scenes at all. The pacing was just snail-like. Even I as the writer was growing bored, and that’s a REALLY bad sign. Boredom is the knell of death for a work of fiction.
  3. I DIDN’T LIKE ONE OF THE MAJOR CHARACTERS. ONE OF THE “GOOD GUYS.” Maybe it was just the situation I had put her in, but I had very high expectations for a young woman named Francie Rafe as she worked as part of the king’s Magic Council. I didn’t like her at all!!! (That was one of the factors, I think, that made me bored with the story.) In the story I ended up writing, I found a way for Francie to shine and show the best of herself while staying true to who she was as I first envisioned her…. I was quite happy with the result, and ended up loving her in “The King’s Sons.” (Interestingly, during the first WIP phase I told my roommate I didn’t like Francie because she’d had to tell a bunch of lies and I hated her best friend, and she responded, “I don’t get it. Can’t you just make Francie not lie? You’re the author, aren’t you?” Well, it’s not that easy. Francie wouldn’t have been Francie then. The situation at hand was one where Francie WOULD have told some major lies. Writers, you must, must, MUST be true to your characters and who they are, the good, the bad, and the ugly.)

So, there you go. My dilemma had a happy ending: I was able to recycle Francie as well as the villain into a different storyline seven years into the future from the original action. I knew them well enough that the draft came together VERY quickly and with no hitches once I began again. Francie was still an important character, but I had her share the spotlight a big more, which ended up a great decision, and cut the friend character I didn’t care for. I even salvaged some scenes and scraps of dialogue I liked.

Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut when it tells you something’s off with your WIP. It might be a quick fix, but even if it’s not, it’s better to make HUGE alterations or even start again than to turn out a finished product that’s not your best work and that will tarnish your reputation and disappoint your readers. You owe them…. and yourself!… better.

Hope this was thought provoking: Have you ever considered scrapping all or a large part of a WIP? Why? I’d love to hear, so please comment! And don’t forget “The Crimson League” is FREE ON KINDLE Sept. 3-5!


One response to “Time to Scrap Writing a Project?

  1. I’ve found that, when writing a new story, I don’t actually understand my characters at all until at least halfway through the plot. Around that point I’ve figured out who they are and what makes them tick, at which point I have to go back and fix up the plot so it actually works with the characters.

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