Trying to Keep Going

When everything changes, you have to keep going anyway. That’s what we’re learning from these last few months, I think. It’s what I’m trying to apply to my novel, too.

When I first started writing SC, I had no expectations of myself or my novel. Those were the days. I remember reaching Chapter 6 and being impressed with myself, because none of my stories ever got past chapter five. After ten months of writing, I finished the first draft of SC at the age of fifteen. Twelve months after that, I finished the first draft of Book 2. Another eighteen months after that, I finished the considerably longer first draft of Book 3. Maybe two or three years after that, I gave up on the first drafts of Book 4 and the spinoff I’ll call Book 5. Why?

From the time I finished the first draft of SC and started Book 2, I also started working on Book 1 all over again. It started with trying to convert my handwritten draft onto a computer, but in trying to type it up I was seeing all these mistakes and inconsistencies and soon enough, I decided I wouldn’t just type up Book 1, I would rewrite it. And I tried. I would type several chapters, love them, share them with people, get feedback, think about them, reread them, and see something else I wanted to change, something big enough that it was easier just to start over than to try to work it into the ten chapters I’d already written.

And so I would start over, and over and over and over again. And now, nearly ten years since I finished the first draft of SC, I haven’t finished a second draft. In fact, so much of it has changed at this point (and good thing too, because fifteen year old me was not yet a decent writer) that when I finish my current draft, I’d consider it another first draft.

The most recent iteration of SC, sitting at 76k words, is the furthest I’ve gotten with a single draft of SC since that first first draft a decade ago. It’s hard to tell how long that one was because it was written by hand and took up four different notebooks of varying page lengths with many entire pages crossed out to boot, but I think it was shorter than the current draft is (maybe 50k?). Which means SC as it stands is the longest project I’ve ever written. I’ve only managed to get this far, because I stopped allowing myself to go back to edit or start over, and to appease my perfectionist tendencies I instead made notes for myself as to what I wanted to change. When I finish this first draft, only then will I allow myself to go back and make those changes.

The latest of my problems with it is that I’ve had a few ideas, big, novel-changing ideas, that I’ve been thinking over. Things like taking out or adding in or changing the roles of characters that are kind of integral to the story. If I decide to make those changes, draft two will very much be a rewrite. And if that’s the case, what’s the point of spending my time finishing draft one?

It’s the same line of thinking that’s gotten me in trouble before, the same line of thinking that resulted in writing the beginning of SC over and over for years, never even getting far enough to reach the intro for this character.

I’m still going forward because I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll be making all those changes, or only some, or none. But with every scene, I feel more and more like I’m wasting my own time, like there’s no point to writing it now if I’m just going to rewrite it later. I had a plan when I started out (I Plotted Two Novels Today) but as I wrote, small changes began to build up and my novel now has a different plot from the one I wrote down, even though they start in the same place.

So what will I do? I have a few ideas. We’ll see what happens and I’ll write an update when I figure things out. Right now I know I don’t want to start over, even if I do decide to make major changes. Writing this draft to the end would be invaluable to the novel and the future drafts. But what I do about that constant thought that what I’m writing isn’t worth it—we’ll see, I guess.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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