So here I am, about 8,000 words into my first draft of Freedom City. I started working on this novel a few months ago, but I got stuck. What I’d written so far wasn’t working, so I had to scrap most of it and go back into my outline.
Now, when I say “most of it,” it really wasn’t much. A few thousand words. Losing those words wasn’t painful at all. I’ve lost much more on my first two novels.
After three months of writing Going Home, I realized the voice was all wrong. I think I might’ve scrapped close to 40,000 words. (I’m actually kind of appalled that I can’t remember exactly how many words I scrapped. Those words were my brain children. My severely disabled brain children who needed my love and care. Sorry babies.)
I got about 40,000 words into Women Like Us before I realized I’d started it in the wrong place. I’m pretty sure I cut 30,000 of those words too. That’s three-quarters of what I’d written so far. But hey, I was getting better.
So losing a few thousand words from Freedom City was really no big deal. But here’s where the neurotic wheel in my brain starts spinning. Why haven’t I lost more?
I guess the first obvious answer is that I haven’t written more. But is that it? I already got stuck. I already had to go back into my outline and figure out what the heck I was doing with this novel. That’s the tradition. Shouldn’t this happen at 30 or 40 thousand words? Is everything I’m writing now just kindling for the pyre I’m going to make out of this manuscript before I can really get into it the right way.
I need to stop thinking this way. Because you know what? If I hadn’t written those 30,000 word babies, I’d never have figured out what my book was really about. I wouldn’t have known the right way to write it.
So maybe they weren’t word babies. Maybe they were word parents who selflessly sacrificed themselves to make the rest of the manuscript stronger. It hurt to lose them. Especially in Women Like Us, because I’d written such a marvelous back story for my characters that simply didn’t fit into the novel once I’d figured out which way it was going. Though the words may not physically be there, they did inform the story. I know what happened in Lemon’s and Rayline’s past, even if I did have to chop it out, and that’s what made them the characters they are.
Does your writing process include any maddening but necessary “traditions” like mine? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!