Burning Another One Down

All right, confession time here. Sometimes, I get to the end of a piece of writing and I know it didn’t work. I don’t always have to reread it to know either. There are times when I just feel it.

I’ve been going through that with Unmasked and Cayle pretty much since I finished it. Something felt wrong. I even had hints of it while I was writing. But this was something bigger than what I thought the problem was initially. I could feel that too. On a very deep level, the story wasn’t working. I just didn’t know why or what to do about it. I didn’t even know what wasn’t working. There were times in the first few days after writing “The End” where I thought maybe I was just being critical and that it would seem better when I went back to it after a break, but mostly, I knew better. I could feel the jarring notes, the discord of a story that isn’t what it should be.

So I did the best thing I could. I walked away from it without a backward glance. I went off to play with Reah and Viz, deciding to worry about Cayle another day.

Why? Because I knew I wouldn’t figure it out by staring at it. If that was going to work, I’d have had the answer by the time I finished Unmasked. I didn’t. I needed time away, to let the whole thing cool, before I could see what had gone wrong, so I did that.

I have to say, I don’t think I ever entirely stopped thinking about the problem. The longer I live, the more I realize that my brain works on more things simultaneously in the background than I even want to know about. Seriously. I think it’s been trying to cook that story into what it’s supposed to be for weeks now. Today, the timer must have dinged.

The whisper came as I reached the door of my apartment. I’d just walked home from work through a beautiful sunny day and really wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. Then Cayle made the most amazing suggestion. It took me a minute to unlock my door. I just stood there and turned this idea over and over, looking for flaws. It was just about perfect.

It’ll reshape almost everything. I’ll almost certainly junk the entire draft I have now, or at least 90% of it. Yes, the 120,735 word draft. No, that doesn’t bother me. I did it with Bound when that book’s first draft was irretrievably broken and it turned out wonderfully. It’s hard to be scared or bothered by the idea of throwing out a draft when you have that track record. Besides, the current incarnation of Unmasked is so dysfunctional in my head that I can’t bring myself to think about book 2 of that trilogy. That’s a sign right there. I’m always thinking about the next book. Trust me on that.

This is why it was so nice to be carried away by What Lies Beneath, because I was smarting  badly by the feeling that I might have made a royal mess of Unmasked. I won’t lie, I had nights where it was personal and it went well beyond just the one book. I wondered if I was any good at this writing thing after all, or if I just got lucky with a couple of stories that came together in spite of me, not because of. I needed WLB, and Reah and Viz. They reminded me that one story failing to work immediately doesn’t make me a bad writer. Hard to remember that when you’re frustrated though.

So now I’m making notes on, essentially, 3 different books. At once. Yes, we all already know I’m crazy, so I don’t buy any of those shocked expressions. Unless it’s sarcastic shock. I always love a good snarky pretend shock. I’m still going to go through the rest of the Spire trilogy before I go back to rewrite Unmasked. It’s just nice to have a way forward with that one. I like Cayle and I didn’t want to lose him or that world.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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14 Responses to Burning Another One Down

  1. You are brave, braver than I’ve been able to be. I know what the issues are my the first two novels I wrote, but I haven’t worked up the courage to essentially rewrite them from the beginning. One of these days when I have a month to kill relearning those characters, I’ll do it. 🙂 Good luck!

    *P.S., does this mean I’ll have a sprint partner again soon? 😀

    • Julie says:

      Thanks. I think it was brave the first time. Now it’s trusting past experience. Look at it this way though, you’re allowing them to be themselves as they need to be, these stories awaiting your reimagining. Maybe it’s best not to relearn who they are too deeply, unless you know what you need to do to fix the story. They might surprise you. 🙂

      And I won’t be sprinting for a bit, June at the earliest (also unlikely though). I desperately need to get through some editing first, so I’m not allowed to draft ANYTHING until I get a couple things done. It’s the only way, or I’ll just keep writing fresh stuff and never get anything else published. That’s now how I’m supposed to do this, I think. 😉

  2. Celtic Forest Dweller says:

    Um… I don’t think I have any words to say to that (besides what the first person said about bravery). But that’s probably because I finished Camp today, so… yes. I will be taking a couple weeks off from writing, which I’d been promising myself since November… But I don’t suppose you know what a week off of writing is, so I’m probably speaking gibberish. 😉

    And only 3 different books? Pft. I’ve seen worse. 😛 I’m glad you found an answer though! 🙂 Good luck to you!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks, and, um, you’ve got me pegged. I have trouble with a day off. Thankfully, switching projects is enough for me for rest.

      Oh, and usually I only do heavy notes on one or two, so three is a bit unusual. 🙂

      Congrats on finishing Camp, btw. *high fives*

  3. quix689 says:

    I’m glad things seemed to have worked themselves out! I definitely agree that sometimes the best thing to do is just throw the draft out and start over. I did that with my first finished NaNo novel, too, and the second draft was just so much better. It was actually also a lot more fun to write, as I had a better idea of what was going to happen. Sadly, I still don’t know what’s happening with that one, so I’ll be needing another complete rewrite whenever I figure it out. But I’ll worry about that later. So many other stories to write!

    And thank you for this post. I think I had forgotten how much fun writing draft 2 could be. I’ve been so caught up lately with trying not to have to do a rewrite that I’ve ended up not writing much at all. I know better than that. I don’t know what I was thinking, and this was sort of the smack in the face I needed. So, thanks! 🙂

    • Julie says:

      I hope it was a gentle smack. 😉

      And you’re right, draft 2 can be a lot of fun. Also, if that’s how you need to write, there’s nothing wrong with doing so. *hugs*

      • quix689 says:

        I’m not bruised, but it definitely got my attention. 🙂

        And you’re right! If that’s how I need to write, then that’s how I need to write. I’ve said that before and then sort of changed my mind. I had one book successfully written without needing to be completely thrown out, and I thought it was the start of a new trend instead of just a fluke. Now I know better! *hugs*

        • Julie says:

          I’ll tell you, from my experience, every book has its own needs. Out of now 8 separate novels (not including rewrites), this is only the second time I’ve had to totally junk the first draft. Each book has been different in its needs and some elements of the process of writing it. I try to be flexible. 🙂

  4. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m glad you’ve found the key to make the story what it should be!

  5. dex says:

    I love your dedication to the story. Love it. The world needs more brave writers.

    • Julie says:

      😀 Thank you! Maybe this comes out of my approach to writing, that I do it for the story. Nothing else matters to me as long as the story is the best it can be. I know that, as a reader, that’s what I’m most interested in and I don’t believe I’m remotely alone on that.

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