Going Back to the Drawing Board

What can you do after realising you need to scrap a significant portion of your writing?

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You’ve got your great idea and you start putting pen to paper—or fingers to keys. You’ve written a few thousand words, maybe even tens of thousands. And then some lightbulb switches on and you realise that it isn’t working. If you’re lucky, a couple of tweaks are all that’s needed and you can get back on track. But what if it needs more than that? What if the entire thing needs to be scrapped and started again? That sucks.

There are countless reasons why this happens. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to others I know. You need to stop and go back to the drawing board. Maybe the story doesn’t work or you’ve got some major plot holes in the core of your foundation. Maybe the characters are not right. Whatever reasons you may have, the truth is it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what to do next. Hopefully you’re not too far in and it’s no great loss. I was six books into a series when I admitted that I needed to go back to the drawing board. It was by about book three that I realised this, but I ignored it and carried on.

The first thing you need to do is admit that it isn’t working. Much like every aspect of your life, if something isn’t working, you need to stop what you’re doing and change. Admitting it is the hardest step you can do, but the most important.

Once you agree with yourself, take a break. It’s almost impossible for us, as authors, to see our own work impartially. A bit of distance can do wonders. Do something else, it doesn’t really matter what, and just put your project in a drawer somewhere and forget it even exists.

When enough time has passed (and this is entirely personal; some people can take a week, others it can take years, but you’ll know when it’s time) come back to it and see if you can just tweak your work, rather than scrapping the whole thing and starting again. If you do have to go back to the drawing board that’s something you will have to accept. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s hard to say goodbye to your work, but you will come out with a superior product at the end of it.

As I’ve said, admitting it is the hardest part. But once you’ve done that, 90% of the battle has been won. All you have to do after that point is write.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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