Monday, March 27, 2023

Stuck on a WIP? Give it time

Hey everyone! Mary here, procrastinating on writing one thing by writing another. Back in January, I rattled off a few projects I was in various stages of, including some where I was like "I don't know where I'm going with this." One of them was for a YA dark academia novel (basically, a magic prep school murder mystery), working title Gifted and Talented, that I'd outlined, started writing, then promptly began changing my mind about... while I was writing. 

"Well, this is an unsalvageable mess," I kept thinking to myself, as I jotted down the millionth note in my "revisions to make later" file. After all, thanks to all the mind-changing I did, there were gaping plot holes and continuity errors that would surely require me to delete the whole damn thing and start over. Yet I was determined to plow ahead and just finish the friggin' manuscript. For me, a bad draft is better than no draft at all. So by the end of November 2022, I had a complete, if incoherent, novel.

Back in January, my conclusion was that this manuscript, which I'd originally promised to send my agent in "early 2023," was is such rough point that my only plan was to revisit it "at some point." Possibly this year. Or not... the thing was such a disaster, I couldn't bring myself to even consider cracking it open.

Meanwhile, as you may recall, I miraculously pumped out a second novel, working title Phantom/Fantastic, in about two weeks. This one was in much better shape. As in, the plot made sense (partially because it was just more straightforward). So I sent it off to beta readers in December, and the plan was to spend January plotting yet another novel (the conclusion to my Flynn Nightsider trilogy), reading Brave New Girls submissions, and faffing around with my hobbies (I got to sing the Fellowship of the Rings soundtrack in Radio City Music Hall!). 

Then the Presidents' Day long weekend came up, and I'd set it aside to work on a book. In my head, it was going to be Phantom/Fantastic, so I could clean it up and send it to my agent for consideration. One problem: my beta readers were busy too and hadn't gotten around to critiquing it yet.

Faced with a three-day weekend that I'd purposely cleared of plans for writing purposes (and because after running around for months, I just needed some time to chill), I did what at the time felt unthinkable: I cracked open the giant ball of mess that was the Gifted and Talented manuscript. Y'know, the one with plot holes and continuity errors and revision notes that said demanding yet unhelpful things like "need more character interactions."

Reader, I was terrified. I didn't want to face the enormity of the task that would be making this book coherent. But finally, I opened the damn file and started reading.

And it was... okay??? Sure, there were continuity errors, but they could be scrubbed by just editing a few sentences? And the plot holes only needed a paragraph here or there rewritten to be plugged???

I knew from past experience that my first drafts are seldom as horrendous as I feel like they are while actually writing them (this is why composing first drafts is my least favorite part of the writing process... I much prefer outlining, then revising, and I'm not even kidding when I say I wish an AI could write my first drafts for me). I thought it'd be worse this time, though, because I'd changed my mind so much.

But the perspective of time showed me that while there were indeed lots of changes that needed to be made, they weren't nearly as impossible as they'd felt when I'd set the thing down two and a half months earlier. And so I settled down to tackle them. And, after a few weeks, arrived at a draft I was comfortable sharing with my agent (Whether he likes it or not is another matter... hey, at least it's coherent. I think).

I know it's been said a million times before, but sometimes we have to repeat things to ourselves and trust that we were right the last time. So I'll say it again: If you're stuck on a work-in-progress, the best thing to do sometimes is let it sit for a spell.

No comments:

Blogger Template by Designer Blogs