I have something important to say:
It’s okay to cut an active project and rewrite.
While it’s much preferable for the story to be complete before doing this, I understand how, sometimes, the story stops working. When this happens to me, I can go on for a while, forcing scenes out, but I always hit a point where I must take a step back and ask myself, “Am I writing the correct story?”
If the answer is “no,” I cut from the point where I feel the story stopped meeting my expectations. This is usually a scene that I feel good about, and almost as often is the last scene I actually enjoyed writing.
Part of the reason why I push on is because I generally have a nice bit of outline built up and I really don’t want to rework it at all. I don’t want to do all that work. I don’t wan to scrap any of it, no matter how far off the plot I know the thing diverges.
However, I eventually reach a point where I avoid the story, which is rather difficult if my creative mind is focused on it (the other reason why I force out scenes that don’t fit). I’m dissatisfied with the story for some reason, and most of the time it’s because I feel like I’m not “capturing” the essence of the scenes I feel are necessary for making the story the best it can be.
The scenes meander. They don’t do multiple jobs—rarely do even one job. They’re fluff. They’re distractions from the heart of the story.
I did this with Brotherhood A: Stirrings-needs-a-better-title. I wrote beyond the point where I felt uncomfortable with the project and stopped. Avoided it for a few days. When I went back and looked at it, I saw the wordcount was already close to what I expected the book to have—and I was maybe two-thirds done with the outline, when I needed to be much closer to the final card. Sick, I didn’t look at it again for a few more days, then I came back and read through it looking for the best place to cut it. When I found that spot, I lopped off the bloated, meandering writing and pasted it into its own file.
After that, I felt much better.
See, I had gotten blocked. I couldn’t write any more on it because of my deep dissatisfaction with what I already had. Granted, it helped me figure out a great deal of the middle, so when I cut and redid the outline, I had a much better idea of what I wanted, but it didn’t fit. And I don’t consider that writing I’d done as wasted. No writing is ever wasted. This bloat served to identify thin bits of plotting and characterization, which I then filled in with the new outline and writing.
I know the going “rule” is that something should be written all the way through before rewriting commences. However, my creative mind has never worked this way. Back in the 90’s, when I was doing most of my learning, the majority of that learning consisted of me getting blocked because I disliked my writing for some reason. At first, I tried to push through, but that didn’t work. Then I simply abandoned the projects, because I couldn’t see how to get them out of the pits I’d written into them and written them into. Toward the end of the 90’s, I figured out that I needed to rewrite those projects, and I started finishing things.
Yes, I’d come across the “finish first, then rewrite/edit” rule by then, but it clearly did not work for me, so I had to try something else. Cutting at the last good point in the project and rewriting, even if the story isn’t already complete, is what works for me.
So if you’re struggling to complete works because what you have no longer matches the vision in your head or outlined, go ahead and consider cutting an in-progress project. It may not work. However, it could, so it’s perfectly fine to try. Don’t let anyone tell you that’s the wrong way to write, because in writing, as in so much in life, there is no “one true way.” Part of writing is learning what works for you, so even something like this should be tried if you can’t get the story to go any other way.