Saturday, May 09, 2009


I was about 8,000 words into a novel when I decided to scrap it and start over. I'd written about 5,000 words of it several months ago, set it aside, and jumped into it again recently, adding the last 3,000 words.

I know there are writers who can crank that word count out in days, but I'm not one of them. So when I decide to walk away after committing that much effort, it's because I know I can't make it work. I lost faith in the story and didn't find it terribly interesting. The funny thing is that I mentioned this to someone in a forum when he asked how my writing is going, and the resident loon jumped into the conversation and called me a shitty writer for scraping it.

This is how I can tell writers from non-writers. I'll bet most writers have written the first chapter or so of many novels they've never completed. Being able to tell if a story will work or not is a sign of experience. Wasting time and sanity trying to make something work is pointless. Only someone who has never written a novel would believe that you sit down, craft the first sentence, follow that up with the exact right sentence, and move on in that manner until the last word. It just doesn't work that way. Paragraphs get moved. Whole sections get deleted. Characters get cut. Dialog gets trimmed. Sometimes, the whole damn thing gets thrown out.

Is that bad writing? Rhetorical question. Of course it isn't.

I'd been discussing a co-authored project with Helen E.H. Madden for some time. While we'd both love to do it, we simply can't. I'd envisioned this great opening scene for our project. Now that it's been shelved, and my novel has been shelved, I still have this strong opening in my head that I hate to waste. So I'm going to take that first scene and run with it. We'll see how I feel at the 8,000 word mark. Hopefully, I'll be just as enthusiastic about it.

1 comment:

Remittance Girl said...

I have walked away from much more than 8,000 words! And I've done it may times.

I figure, in all the time I've been writing, I've walked away from several hundred thousand words.

Kathleen, you know exactly how to write. And you have the most gloriously flexible imagination. This is something I admire about you greatly, because I don't have the capacity for it. And I don't think THAT is something you learn.

Meanwhile, if you think you have a great opening, then I know you do. I'm really looking forward to seeing what it grows into.