Thursday, 18 July 2013

Jumping the gun: false starts in writing

So, at the end of last month, I finally finished the first draft of my story. Writing the end felt so good. It was like Christmas in July. It was like grape flavored slush on a scorching day. I was so happy. I felt accomplished. But then, the next day, reality returned.
I’d have to edit the monster.
And I mean, it is a monster – a nine-headed Hydra. It ended at 140,000 something words. That, my friend, is too long.
I joined a critique group a few months ago. Scary, to show people your writing, especially in such a rough form. But they have been really helpful. While I was getting my July 1st submission ready and rereading their thoughts on my opening chapters, I realized something.
I jumped the gun.
My story started in the wrong place. The first 50,000 words were back story. I didn’t need them. The really interesting things happened after those first thousand words.
I was tempted to feel like I had wasted my time. That I’d just spent months writing stuff that nobody would ever see. To pull my hair out and scream foul at the world.
But I didn’t want to think like that. And, well, I like my hair.
It’s all right, I thought. I read around author blogs. False starts happen. They don’t have to be a waste. So you wrote back story. You can use it. You figured out your characters. You know where they came from. So, you should know where they’re going.
And you wrote! Doesn’t matter if it won’t be used, you gained a lot of experience. You hopefully honed your craft. You learned things about your writing style. Your voice. Not all of it has to be a waste. Some things can be recycled.
I think, to be a good writer, you have to know when and what to cut. To kill your darlings. It hurts. But in the end, if it serves your story and makes it better, then go ahead and break out the scissors. You need a haircut, darling.
In my case, I burned off eight of those heads and buried the ninth under a rock, Heracles style. They won’t come back to haunt me. I sprinkled some magical fairy dust over them. J
How about you? Ever had a false start? Did you start too early? Too late? Also, if you’re interested in joining the critique group I’m a part of, let me know, I can get you in. We’re always looking for new members writing in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genres.


  1. My feeling is it's never a waste if it gets you to where you need to get to.

    Moody Writing

    1. Exactly!

      Thanks for stopping by!