I was on YouTube today listening to an old NaNoWriMo playlist. It was the one from my very first NaNo – also my first win. I reached the 50,000 words that November. The story wasn’t finished by a long shot, but I haven’t touched it at all in the 3 years since. The following winter, I had some pretty major life events happen that threw me into a huge creative slump. I stopped writing, I stopped reading, I stopped crafting. It’s been almost 3 years since I hit that slump and I’m only just now getting back into the swing of everything.
Today, while skipping around that playlist, my love for those characters came back to life. This same exact thing happened just days before NaNoWriMo2016 as well. I forced myself to put it on hold though to work on the current WIP. I still need to edit that current WIP, but I decided to pull up the files for my 2013 NaNo novel. Scrolling through it, I can see how I’ve aged, how I’ve learned. And I could see all the changes that needed to be made to that novel – changes I would never have seen 3 years ago. So, today, I decided I’m scrapping that story and starting from scratch. I love those characters with the same passion I loved them back then and I realize that they deserve a better story than the one I gave them.
Scrapping a story is hard. Or rather, deciding to scrap one is hard. We as writers live by holding onto our stories. We love our ideas – even the bad ones. We get attached and it’s hard to let go. Today, I want to give you all some signs that you might need to scrap your story and start fresh. **Major disclaimer here: These signs are just from my own experience. They may not apply to your story. Always do what feels best to you when it comes to your writing projects.
Sign 1: No matter what you do, you can’t seem to move the story forward.
You’ve skipped around the scenes, trying to find something to add to your story. You’ve killed off a character or two. You’ve created new conflicts. You’ve taken out conflicts. You’ve added characters. Yet still, your story isn’t going anywhere. Like me, you may love your characters, but you’re not giving them the right story. It may be time to scrap your plot and go back to the drawing board. Don’t get rid of your old manuscript though! You never know what in it might come in handy.
Sign 2: Your characters aren’t who they’re supposed to be just yet.
This is on the other end of the spectrum from Sign 1. You’ve got the plot exactly as it should be. You know the story. But the puzzle still isn’t quite coming together – your characters are giving you grief. You’re supposed to be giving them grief after all. That’s how writing goes. Basically what I mean by this is that your characters need to be developed more. You’ve had a clear idea of who you’ve wanted your characters to be, but you haven’t quite gotten them into that shape just yet. That’s okay. Put the story on hold – spend some time with them. You’re probably going to have to rework that story quite a bit once you get your characters to that prime point, but it’ll be worth it.
Sign 3: Your story isn’t settling right after a break from it.
This was more or less, my specific sign. I spent a lot longer away from my story than I planned on. However, now that I’ve come back to it, there are so many things that just don’t settle right. I was so happy with my story when I wrote it. Everything was coming together perfectly. I really didn’t have any issues besides the fact it was going to take more than 50,000 words to finish it. I’ve learned so much in the years since writing that story though. I know the only way to make everything settle right is to scrap it and start fresh. Some things will remain, but this story needs to be told in a different manner – in a better one.
These are some pretty general signs that you may need to scrap or rework your story. As writers, though, we trust our gut and our gut understands these generalities pretty well. And we have to be okay with letting go of some ideas to make way for new, better ones. So, what signs have you encountered that made you decide to rework/scrap a story? And how difficult was it for you to make that decision? Let me know in the comments. And until next time, take care.