Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Cutting a Work-In-Progress

My July Novel Writing Month project was something from an old world I’d started building on some few years ago, and is titled Where There’s Always Sunlight.

WTAS had a consistent run over the month of July, until about the 27th, when I wrote one last scene and gave up on continuing. Something didn’t feel right about the story, and I’d been pushing myself to write with my feeling of discomfort over it, but I’d gotten, as you see if you look at the link, over 55k words on it, so I decided to call my Julno a done deal.

But I didn’t stop thinking about the project. It took me several days—about a week—to figure out what I was struggling with. In the end, I was able to pin down a number of issues I was having with the project which was making it so difficult to feel good about.

1. I’d misplaced a lot of the conflicts for Gildas.

2. It wasn’t meandering, but the scenes weren’t as focused as they could have been.

3. I felt like I’d skipped scenes (which is usually a pretty good indicator I was on the wrong “path” with the story, even if it approximates what I want).

4. It had more words than it should have had for being at the point I was in the book, even if I’d been writing 800-1k words per scene, and with most of my scenes between 1k-2k, that was a big issue.

5. Due to a variety of the above factors, the story seemed to drag.

6. I kept on dropping different subplots for too long, then tried to “rescue” them, which made different events seem choppy and misplaced.

With that many issues, I realized I wouldn’t make any progress at all until I made a cut, so I did.

Yes, I know the going wisdom is “write the whole story, then rewrite,” but I was already struggling with the story, even without knowing what was wrong, and forcing myself to continue writing against that would have depressed me. Writing after I knew the reasons why I was struggling would only have increased the depression. Eventually, I’d have given up on the entire project until I did make the cut, because, for me, if writing isn’t fun—whether getting new words or editing—I simply don’t do what needs to be done unless I feel good about the project. I was on my way to hating WTAS, and when I hate what I’m writing, it makes me even more depressed about writing—to the point of not even wanting to get out of bed, never mind sit at my computer and get more words on whatever I’m depressed over.

Believe me, I resist the decision to cut any work I haven’t finished writing. Some part of me always feels like I’m doing something wrong to restart the project, but I’ll tell you something. Every single time I’ve cut an in-progress wip down to rewrite, I have always felt relieved, happy, and capable of writing the story from the point at which I cut it. When my mood makes such a dramatic shift into the positive sphere following the act of cutting what’s bothering me, I know cutting it was a good decision.

And this time was no different. Especially since WTAS was the only project I was able to find any words for. When I cut it, I didn’t even want to do read-throughs of what I’d already written. Now, I not only want to read through it, I also want to read it to its unwritten end. That tells me the first few scenes I’ve written since making the cut and starting the new plot cards from that point are doing what they need to, and that the story’s improved.

According to my writing logsheet, I cut 53,426 words from WTAS. When I stopped writing, the total wordcount for the story was at 66,320 (I’d started it a few days before July). That left me with about 12,894 words, to which I pasted in another 4507 before I found the right spot to work from. By 3 Aug, I was writing on it again.

And then a writing downswing struck. LOL That’s the way my life goes.

1 Comment

  1. Good for you, Ashe. Always go with your gut feeling on your project. Sure, I go with the standard, write through to the end then edit. But it that doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about it. Go with what works for you. I’m very glad you found where the story went wrong and could correct it. That’s not something I can always discover. Well done.

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