How to get myself out of this mess?

Right. A while back I started a novel. It had a hero. Let’s call him Tom. He ran around for a while in a vaguely Arthur-Dent fashion until 76k words had elapsed and I suddenly realised that things kept happening to him, and he wasn’t being particularly heroic. I hadn’t quite finished, but I knew what I had in mind.

I started on a different tack. With a new hero. Let’s call him Ben. He was much more of your Ford-Prefect style instigator. And he had a clear motive for all the running around he was doing. I’ve written about 24k of Ben.

I keep looking at all that effort on Tom, and think with a bit of a haircut and a gumption injection he could become Ben. All I need to do is bridge the gap, smack Tom around the face with a fish or other wet thing, and skip through to write the actual end.

Trouble is, whenever I sit to write Ben, more and more comes out, and the bridge gets further and further away. And I now realise the end needs a good 10k or more words adding. Which will make the overall thing too long - possibly 120-130k words.

I hate inefficiency. I’m really struggling to decide whether I should just carry on with Ben (draft 2) and forget about the 76k words (months of effort); or whether I need to compile and edit it into some form of shape now, and then do re-writes. Or something else.

Redux: Draft 1 is 76k words. Draft 2 (which adds action prior to draft 1 is currently 24k words, and requires a rewrite of Draft 1). Neither are (obviously) complete, and both require an ending. Do I keep writing Draft 2, or do I smush them together as Draft 3 and try to make sense of it now?

Or redux further - what’s your experience of revising outside of Scriv and then coming back? (as I clearly have more writing to do)?

The answer - as ever - is to go for a walk. Then get drunk. Then sit and think for an extended period of time while listening to trance music (or any meditative music). Try and hold a pen vaguely near some paper for some or all of these activities.

You can do these in any order you like. But ultimately, only you can own your mess. (You are free to talk about yourself in the second person, however).

To paraphrase a number of authors prone to give advice to the likes of people like me…

Finish your work.

Finish your rough draft. Finish this round of edits. Finish one thing at a time. Finish like you’re from Finish-land. Finish like your name is Finn Ished MacFinisher.

While I’m wholly unqualified to give any of this advice, I’m going to suggest that you finish what you currently have momentum on, set it aside and finish the other rough draft. Write Tom as proactive from the 76,001st word on till the end; you can always go back and edit the first 76,000 words to make the front half of the horse prance like the back end.

I don’t know if you’ve pulled off alternating two rough drafts before, but it seems like you’re maximizing the chances of killing both projects by waffling between them. Every author’s process is different, and like I said, I speak not as an accomplished writer, but as an echo of what seems to be good advice, advice I am struggling to follow myself.

Whatever course you decide to take, I wish you success.

Instead of writing to find out what you think,
Try some focused planning and briefing first.
Who is this character? Can I write his resume, on one page?
What happens to him? Who does he meet? and what then?
Can I put the entire plot on a single page?
You will be asked to do this for an agent, publisher, or producer.
So try starting from that end product first, and write toward it.
I’m serious, and I think that would save you much time/effort.
Good luck! And yes, also go for walks but drink coffee only.

Thanks. One for the notebook.

Oh, and don’t forget the inevitable movie version, directed by Datsa Wrap Completeberg.

  • Dave