If I learned anything from the agonizing months spent editing Courting the Moon, it’s that by the end of it you’ll have tossed out pretty much everything from the original draft (or two…) and have essentially started over from scratch. And it seems that I have to do the same thing with my YA fantasy novel Faylinn… only much earlier in the process.
Courting the Moon is kind of a reference point for me, since it’s the first work of mine that actually reached the final editing process, and it shares some similarities with Faylinn. Courting the Moon found its origins in the scraps of a currently unpublished and incomplete fan fic for an anime called The Vision of Escaflowne. If you watch the anime and read my book, you’ll see that there is pretty much nothing that the two of them have in common anymore, besides a main male character having long blonde hair and being called a “chevalier.” And if you saw my first draft (which, if you did, you have my condolences) you’d see that there is a lot that’s changed between it and the final product. Only 12% of the original remained intact just after the first major post-beta-reader round of editing!
And don’t get me wrong, none of this is a bad thing. The story is way, way, way better for going through this process. It just… now that I know this is what will happen, it makes it harder to put anything down on the page at all. My internal dialog goes something like this:
Little Voice of Negativity: “This is going to get cut anyway, so why bother writing it down?”
Me: “But how will I know if I should keep it or cut it if I don’t write it down?”
LVoN: “Trust me, it sucks. Don’t waste your time.”
Me: “You just wanna watch more Netflix, don’t you?”
LVoN: “…shut up, loser.“
Me: “I heard that!”
(You get the idea.)
My current project, Faylinn, also has its origins in fan fiction. The fic itself was never published, but the story was completed. I decided to do a major revamping to turn it into its own thing, and thought this would be pretty simple. Just swap out names, descriptions, make some world-building and plot adjustments and wham! Brand new novel with less work!
Hah. That was naive of me. In a way, I’ve almost made more work for myself because I have to unshackle so much of the story and characters from its source. I was trying to shoe-horn in a new story and motivations and world into the preexisting structure, but just doesn’t work. The tone of the story, the presentation of the characters, the basic motivations… none of it quite matched up. So I’ve actually started writing a whole new draft, more or less from scratch. I’m still using the old one for description reference and some dialog, but at the moment, I’m trying to just entirely rewrite the story without looking at the original idea or text.
It’s a really weird sensation because in some ways it feels like I’m rewriting what I’ve already written, which at first glance seems like a waste of time. On the other hand, rewriting it fresh will give it a different tone and better cohesion than it would if I just tried writing new stuff to “fill the gaps” and shove them into the original draft. (Or maybe I should call that a “proto-draft” while this one is the “rough draft”…? Eh, anyway…) Maybe I’m making more work for myself doing it this way, or perhaps I’m just moving around work that would need to be done at some point anyway. All I know for sure is that I’m not saving any time. It’s a bit frustrating and demoralizing, but at the same time, like with Courting the Moon, I know that Faylinn will be a better, stronger story in the end. I really like the world and the structure of the Ellu, and I’m getting more in tune with the characters. Now if I could just stop getting distracted by Voltron, sunshine, and chocolate, it would be smooth sailing! *sigh*
So, what are your experiences with starting a project over from scratch, and how do you cope with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!