I'm Scrapping My Novel... Again

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Let me begin this post by saying that this decision terrifies me.

[credit | leslie ann o'dell]
The title says it all: I've to decided to start my WIP On the Midnight Streets over. For the second time. According to Google Docs, I'm essentially throwing out over 22,000 words. (Obviously I'm backing them up and not throwing them out entirely, but still.) Here are the things I'm planning on doing, to put it bluntly.
  • Throw out my current plotline and replace it with one that flows and actually makes sense
  • Make changes to my characters and develop them better
  • Flesh out my worldbuilding so that my settings are logical and dynamic
  • Make OtMS unavailable for public viewing while it's in drafting stages (i.e., take it off of Wattpad and Figment)
I'm rebuilding this book from the ground up, more or less. I'm keeping essential things that have been working for me, and I'm still (hopefully) keeping the spirit of the story that made me love it in the first place. But anything that isn't necessary or coherent? It will be changed.

Why on earth am I making myself go through this agony, might you ask?

The fact of the situation is that I've been working on this novel for almost three years. In that time, I haven't even finished a first draft. I haven't even hit the 50,000 word mark. I always peter out at around 20,000–25,000 words. I tend to make light of that by joking about my "poor long-suffering WIP" and getting guilt-tripped by my friends (we know which one I'm talking about, and yes, you should still love her because her guilt-trips are awesome and absolutely warranted). But if I'm being completely honest with myself, I'm incredibly frustrated and bitter about the fact that I haven't been able to finish this book. It's eating away at me. I feel like it's going nowhere, and consequently, I'm going nowhere.

The logical thing to think about, then, is what my main roadblocks might be. And I believe that I've boiled them down to three main points.

  • I'm not making time to write consistently.

I'm a high school student. My sophomore year is starting soon. Being academically successful is very important to me; therefore, I spend a while on my homework. I also practice piano for around three hours every day and have other extracurriculars to do besides. So I won't be able to sit down and write every day for hours at a time. I realize that. Most first-time novelists don't have that kind of gap in their schedule to fill with writing anyway. If I'm going to finish this book, I need to manage my time and dedicate myself to making sure I can write on a regular basis. The truth is I haven't been doing this. I haven't really been making the effort to stay productive. But my hope is that this year, I can change that. I'm hoping to focus more on my work every day so that I can also get at least a little bit of writing in on a regular basis. I'll need to work hard at this. I'll need to keep myself accountable, and only time can truly tell if I have it in me to do this. But I need to believe that I'm capable of this.

  • I'm pressuring myself too much for the first-draft stage.

This point breaks down into two subpoints.

A) Online posting. I've been posting half-chapters of OtMS on Figment and Wattpad as soon as they're written. Don't get me wrong; I love these online writing communities and I think they're a wonderful, vibrant new force in the literary world. I also love getting immediate feedback—who doesn't, really? And the serialization approach works for some writers, I know that. But I think what I haven't been realizing these past few years is that serialization doesn't really work for me. It leads me to pressure myself into trying to produce work that my online readers will like rather than giving my story room to breathe. Rather than allowing my draft to be terrible so that it'll be a load of rubbish but at least it'll be done. To fix that, I'm going to be taking OtMS off of Figment and Wattpad.

But never fear! I'll be looking for beta readers if/when (let's make that an optimistic when) my manuscript is ready.

B) My own personality as a writer. I'm very driven by writing style, so I spend a lot of time worrying about my style instead of throwing words down on the page. That makes me a very, very slow writer, and it also gives me a crippling fear of just dragging myself to my draft and going BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). To try and remedy that, I want to try Alyssa's sparse drafting technique—make a draft messy, hilariously bad, bare-bones, and likely full of snarky notes to myself in [brackets]. Hopefully this will make edits easier (and more funny!) when (I'm sticking to the word when now) the time for them comes.

  • I'm clinging to unnecessary aspects of my book.

Let's face it: I was twelve years old when I came up with the idea for this story. I'm fifteen now. In those years, I've changed more drastically than I ever have in my entire life. It turns out that's how adolescence works. *weeps forever* 

When I was twelve, I wanted to write this book because I was overexcited about the Victorian aesthetic and Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series. I basically set out to write a clone of Clockwork Angel with some unsubstantial Les Mis mixed in—complete with love triangle (mine was ill-conceived and not entirely necessary), revolution (mine was incredibly underdeveloped), and magic system (which has since been eliminated because it was so poorly done). I plunged headfirst into this book with some half-baked scene ideas, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and no real inkling of what this story really was. 

Needless to say, OtMS has changed a lot since then, at least in my mind. It's become something more, something real, something that matters to me and that will matter to other people (I hope). This book has seeped into the very fabric of who I am; you could say it's grown along with me. I know that I need to tell this story, that I might very well explode if I give up on it, but I'm still figuring out how it needs to be told. But some of the more questionable twelve-year-old Christina aspects of the book, things that aren't necessary and don't make sense, have still stuck. And I'm not sure why. I think I need to root out those things so that this story reflects its true self and myself better.

The point is, I love this story too much to let it go. I need to write it. But I think it's time to build it the right way and push through so that I can finally give it to the world in the best form that I can get it to. Right now I feel like I've failed miserably—failed my readers, my characters, myself. But there's hope somewhere. There always is. 

I've decided to call this Brave New OtMS. I'm thinking that I'll post on this blog about my progress (in a new post series of the same name) in order to keep myself accountable. This is going to be a painful journey, I know. It's going to be full of anger and insecurity and work, and it'll most likely show me some of my own worst traits as a writer and individual. It's a gamble at best, a complete waste of time at worst. 

Thank you for sticking with me so far. I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you and I can't say it enough. But now I think it's time to turn over a new leaf. 

Here goes nothing everything.

So what do you think? Have you experienced something similar, and if so, how did you deal with it? Do you think this is the right choice, or do you think my brain has turned to mush at last? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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