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Start Fresh, Like A Baby In A Sink

January 21, 2010

[Ingrid Michaelson–“Starting Now”]

It is astonishing the effect a new, large white board can have on one’s psychological well being. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t speak for other people who might not be as enamored with office supplies as I am–it is astonishing the effect a new, large white board can have on my psychological well being. I just spend a solid hour pouring the contents of my writerly brain out onto said board’s smooth, glossy surface. I made character notes, worked on my newly-emerging back history, and listed plot issues still in need of resolution. I did this all while rocking out to Immediate Music, the composition company responsible for scoring movie trailers with crashing strings and those ubiquitous choirs who sing in indiscernible languages. It was, I have to say, an immensely satisfying creative experience.

Unfortunately, it reaffirmed a fear that’s been nudging vaguely at me ever since my new book thoughts started setting off fireworks inside my skull. I’m 99% positive I need to–gulp–start over.

The idea is both disheartening and inspiring. On the one hand, it’s obviously unpalatable to scrap over 10,000 words and start from scratch. On the other, I trust that my new musings are going to add enough depth, complexity, backstory, and general excitement to the book to make the reboot worth it. And some things will certainly be salvageable. (Callum, stop pacing. If I didn’t want you around, I’d never have let you crash the party to begin with.) Fundamentally, my characters and ideas aren’t changing. They’re just beginning to manifest themselves in different ways, and I don’t think I’d be doing this project justice if I tried to shoehorn them into my existing pages. All of this nutty, surprising, sleep-ruining new stuff deserves its own space to breathe.

So, because I swore to myself this blog would be my accountability, I’m here to confess that I probably won’t do any actual writing for the next day or two. Because so much is changing, I need to let it all settle in my head again before I start re-committing it to paper. I’ll be taking notes, of course–I don’t think my ideas would let me sleep at all if I went a whole day without putting anything on the page–but I’m going to put a brief hold on the official new “CHAPTER ONE” and all that is going to come after it.

What are your experiences with starting over?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jschancellor permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:55 pm

    A white board is an excellent idea, one I may very well try out.
    I don’t know that I’ve ever truly started over, not in the holistic sense of the word. After finishing book one of Fable, I had to add a prologue and redo the whole first chapter—but I don’t think that’s what you mean. Sometimes scenes we think we’ve written for naught, turn up to be totally different characters in totally different books later on down the line. I’ve done that way more than once. I’ve written whole chapters that were scraped and then later adapted for placement in a whole other piece. So, you never know.
    It all goes back to that, stories not standing in a straight line like I’d like them to, thing. This stuff happens because someone hasn’t waited their turn or they’ve butted in where they didn’t belong. Stories are so rude and inconsiderate sometimes. Sheesh. It’s like they think our lives revolve around them or something…wait…okay, maybe they do revolve around our stories, but still. They’re given numbers for a reason.

    • January 22, 2010 4:05 pm

      I highly recommend a white board! I rarely do writing work by hand, but for some reason a white board feels different, and it’s really nice to see all my notes clearly laid out in front of me.

      Yes, those feisty little stories, always thinking they’re in charge. :) I’m glad you’ve found new lives for some excised sections, though! It’s always nice when you don’t have to totally abandon something you’ve put a lot of work into.

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