Keeping Score: 26 August 2022

Ever write a scene, and immediately regret it?

This week I’ve been focusing on finishing one, just one, of the story first draft I’m in the middle of. I carefully plotted out what scenes were left at the start of the week, and spent each day’s writing session chugging along, setting them down.

Only when I got to the second-to-last scene, I made it halfway through before coming to a screeching halt. Despite all my well-laid plans, I was suddenly out of track, for two reasons.

One, I’d decided to have the main character expose her boss as a fake, by flipping open the many file boxes her boss has strewn around and showing them all to be empty. Very dramatic, fun scene, in my head. Only I forgot to come up with a reason why the boxes were empty.

So when I got to the part where she opened them up, and I needed to show her boss’ reaction, I had nothing. No idea. Nothing to see here folks, the muse has gone home for the day.

Two, even once I’d spent some time brainstorming ideas for the boxes, and started back in on the scene, I realized the tone was completely wrong. I’d started the story off as a meditation on memory and purpose, with a protagonist gradually realizing she wants to do something else with her life.

Emphasis on gradually. Not big-d Dramatically, or in some blaze of glory, but over time, like the tide receding from a beach. And here I had this high-volume scene right towards the end of the story. It doesn’t wok, and I knew it wouldn’t work as I was writing it.

But I finished the scene anyway. I’ve been told too many times, by too many authors more experienced and skilled than me, that stopping to edit in the middle of a draft is an excellent way to never get anything finished.

And once again, they’ve turned out to be right! Because in finishing the scene, and chewing it over once I’d done it, I realized moving the scene earlier in the story — with some tweaks — will give it all the things it was missing before: a ticking clock, a purpose behind the boss’ actions, a push for the protagonist to make her life-altering decision.

I’ve got one more scene left to write in this draft, so I’m going to take another page out of their advice, and write it like I’ve already made the change I’m thinking of doing in the next draft. That way, when I actually write that draft, this final scene won’t need as many edits (and I’ll have a completed draft, which is an accomplishment on its own).

What about you? Have you ever had a scene (or a story) that you thought you’d need to throw away, and instead it became the spark that set off something even better?

Patience

Sent the novel out to my first pick agent this weekend. I know it’ll most likely be rejected — it’s my first real stab at a query letter — but I’ve got to start somewhere.

Also got back another rejection of one of the stories I’ve been circulating. I didn’t waste any time worrying about it, though. I picked another market, and sent it right back out.

While waiting for rejections, I’m rewriting one of the stories I wrote last month. The feedback I got on it was positive, but in fixing the problems the reviewers pointed out, I discovered a different story sitting under the one I was writing.

Same characters, same themes, but a different plot.

I have a feeling this version will turn out much better than the first two, but the only way to find out is to write it 🙂

Encouraging News

First reader review of the novel draft is in! And it’s generally positive!

True, it’s from a good friend of mine, who’s definitely biased. And yes, he had a list of suggested edits for me, from grammar mistakes to confusing descriptions to scenes that dragged on too long (all of which he’s right about). But overall he liked it, and he wants to read more.

Maybe it’s not as bad as I feared, after all.

Or perhaps it is, and he’s seeing past the mistakes to how good the novel could be, if edited into shape.

Either way, it’s encouraging for me to hear. If I can entertain one person with the first draft, I can entertain more with the second, and even more with the third. It’ll take work to get there, but this kind of validation, however biased it may be, makes me feel like it’ll be worth it.