Kelly posted earlier today about our decision to toss a WIP of 55,000 words. If you’re a writer (or maybe even if you’re not), you’re probably wincing right now. That’s a lot of effort that we just put aside. Six weeks of effort, in fact.
She talks about our thought processes leading up to this decision, so I’ll let you go read about that. I’m going to talk a bit about having the courage to scrap words.
We’ve had quite a few reactions to the news that we’ve scrapped 55,000 words (which, for reference, is about the size of a category romance novel). We had a few commiserating responses, along the lines of “OUCH!”. Reesa Herberth, co-author of Peripheral People, said:
— Reesa Herberth (@reesah) April 20, 2016
(By the way, if you haven’t read Peripheral People, you need to get on that. Psychic detectives in space, y’all.)
Someone congratulated us on the bold decision to split up our original couple and put them with different love interests. Which…yeah, it’s kind of sad to do it, but we both really love the characters as they exist now. One or both would have to change significantly in order to have enough inherent conflict to make their story interesting, and we didn’t really want to do that.
Another reaction that really struck me was this one:
@kmkjensen this is what I needed to hear today. If you two can do it, then so can I!
— Kris T Bethke (@KrisTBethke) April 20, 2016
It kind of hit me after reading this tweet that yeah, trashing 55,000 words is a Big Deal. But as Kelly says in her post, the effort wasn’t wasted. We explored our world and these two characters. We got to understand them better. Best yet, we had fun with this exercise.
On top of everything else, we learned a few things.
- If something is niggling at you about the plot or the characters or the romantic relationship, don’t think, “Eh, I’ll address it in revisions”. For little stuff, like bits of research or minor adjustments, this is fine; revising that sort of thing can slow down your drafting. But big items? Nope, you need to look hard at those types of issues when they come up.
- This experience reiterated the lesson we learned when writing the Chaos Station series, which was that the spec fic elements of the story need to be woven into the plot right from the beginning. We did that, to some extent, but not deeply enough.
- You can tell a contemporary-type story in a paranormal world, but it’s tough to do when you’re introducing readers to a new world. You need a plot that pulls the reader into the paranormal elements, introducing them and fleshing them out.
So the point is…if your gut is telling you to step back and try a new direction with your writing, maybe listen to it. Don’t be afraid to toss words out the window if you have to. Sometimes it’s the best decision.