I’m experiencing yet another case study in why you don’t just jump on that shiny new idea. About this time last year, I got an idea. I got excited about it, but I had other books to write, so I put it aside. Last fall, I started doing some research and development on it, spent a fair amount of time on fleshing it out, and wrote a proposal. During the holidays, I looked at my agent’s notes on it and realized how shallow my thinking was, and did some more development.
Then yesterday I pulled out some writing books that have exercises in them and used those to do more development, and I was surprised by how much depth came out of that. It really makes what I wrote in the fall look shallow and trite.
I was so excited about what I came up with yesterday that I’m eager to get back on it and see what else I can come up with to figure out my characters, their relationships, and their world.
Then the trick will be to work all that insight into the story. I’m almost at the point where I think I’d be better off scrapping what I wrote and taking a fresh stab at it. It’s not so many words or pages that doing this seems too daunting. I once heard a speaker at a writing workshop say you should do this with every book — write a draft, then put it aside and write it again, since once you know the story and the characters you can really write the story, and if you look at the words you’ve already written, it will be hard to separate yourself from those words. I’ve done that with scenes, when I knew the scene needed to be changed but I found that I was just rearranging words (the rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic metaphor applies). To really get the new scene I needed, I had to start fresh and rewrite it entirely. I think maybe to get the proposal I need, I’m going to have to start fresh and rewrite it entirely.
But this is why it’s really good to let those shiny new ideas sit for a while, then think about them, then let them sit some more, and then really dig into them.