Okay, so I thought it was high time to write once more about writing, even if it's short. I've been steadily making progress on TSS 2.0 over the last few weeks. I estimate I've already passed the 50k word point, though only 20k of it is in the current first draft (the rest is garbage I eventually filed away). 30k is a lot of words to throw out, but I had good reason, and it wasn't for nothing.
As some of you may remember, in the course of rewriting the book from the ground up, I chose to convert it to a sort of urban fantasy, where a girl from our world crosses to a magical one. This is really exciting for me, and I feel like overall, it's going really well. But, there have been challenges. The biggest one has been the scene where she first appears in the new world, and subsequently needs to get some info about her new surroundings. (The reader also has to get info, otherwise they'd be completely lost.) My first attempt was about 15 pages long, and was a train wreck of info-dumping and unnatural dialogue. The second attempt trimmed it down to maybe 10 or 11 pages, but didn't really address or solve the original problems. (Keep in mind, these were complete rewrites of the same scene, not edits.) The third draft of the scene was about 8 pages, and I decided to rethink the process, eventually changing some key elements of the logistics so everything flowed a bit better, but once again, I didn't solve the problem. It was still too long and it still felt like an info dump (I was bombarding the reader with names and terms), both of which add up to a really, really bad scene.
So I asked some people what they thought. I asked my writing group (a bunch of really neat people who I have only met like 3 times, but we chat over the interwebs) for some suggestions, and threw some ideas around at my family. Eventually I was able to hammer out a new version, and with Becky's help, I reformulated the scene, switching out characters, and revising the outcome of the "magical explanation". I started to write it, and made it about halfway through before I once again realized it just wasn't right. The basics of the new idea were solid, and it would work, but I was still trying to do too much, too soon. A couple of writing groupies (is that a good term?) brought up some books that had slow reveals related to the magic system and travel to magical worlds, so I tried hard to edit my own thinking on the subject.
So I began Rewrite Number 5 of this particular scene. This time, I acknowledged that I couldn't do everything in one scene. I wrote it simple and fast, trying to be concise as possible. I eliminated several aspects of the previous scenes, made the reasons for appearing in a magical world more of a mystery, and withheld some stuff that the reader probably didn't need to know (the technical mumbo jumbo I had developed for myself).
I ended that version at 5 pages, and while it still needs the tweeks and revisions all first drafts need, I think I finally pinpointed the right way to do it. Last night I was able to move on and begin writing Chapter Five, where the story really gets interesting.
In all, my wasted words add up to about 30k, but the trimmed and lean version was worth it, and I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and also saw the deep black hole many writers fall into. Endless rewrites of a chapter early on can really take the passion out of you, and stall your book. While I think I escaped that trap this time, it's something to look out for in the future.
On a related note, I wanted to share something Pat Rothfuss (author of the Kingkiller Chronicles) posted in his blog a while back, and I hope he doesn't mind me linking it here.
How to overcome fear of failure, by Pat Rothfuss: "You come to grips with the fact that writing something that sucks is better than writing nothing at all.
If you write something and it sucks, then good for you. Not all explorers discovered lost golden cities and trade routes to the mysterious East. Some of them died in a ditch. A lot of them did, actually. But still, they get full props for being brave.
But if you sit there paralyzed with fear, afraid to get out of your chair, then you’re no kind of explorer at all. You’re just a sad bastard. You have no chance of being cool.
The same is true with writing."