Those of you who follow this blog, know that I’ve been writing a piece that doesn’t currently have a name, but I lovingly call “THE THING.” It’s a piece I started writing after hearing a podcast say “Where is my queer John Laurens love story?” I felt compelled to write it. I spent camp NaNo and NaNoWriMo 2018 writing it. I spent most of 2018 writing it actually. It was over 400 pages long.
And then I realized I hated about 390 of those pages.
When I started writing it, I just wanted to get these two scenes out of my head during NaNo 2017. I wasn’t planning on taking it seriously, I didn’t really do research about anything. I didn’t even google the American Revolution before I started. The more I wrote, the more I actually tried to take the topic and real-life people involved seriously. My timeline of events didn’t work, the people were in the wrong places at the wrong times.
When I started writing it, the people I was writing about we’re characters. They weren’t historical people who real personalities and motives that I disregarded completely to work my ideas into the narrative.
It was at this point, about a month ago, I realized I had to stop.
However, I didn’t want to give up on this project.
I started it because I wanted to know more about this minor character in a musical, and I ended up finding a person with as complicated a life as the main one. A person who didn’t get to achieve the plans he had for himself because he actively tried to be killed in every battle he took part in. It’s amazing reading the about the actions of individuals in Revolutionary War battles and seeing the recklessness of many of the players.
The more I wrote of the original 400 pages, the more things I discovered and the more I got completely wrong.
So I started over. I scrapped the whole thing, opened a new document and started over from the beginning. I started in the right spot. I used actual facts in re-writing chapter one. For the first time in a bit while writing it felt right and good and like I was accomplishing the goal I started with.
I think realizing I could take this project seriously, changed how I saw it. I found things I wasn’t expecting to find in my research into the different characters involved. I found stories that are so easily relatable to stories of people today.
I think part of writing is knowing when things aren’t working; understanding that it’s okay to step back, okay to start over. Writing 200 thousand words you don’t like, although an accomplishment, means nothing if the story you want to tell isn’t there.
So I’m starting over, and I’m doing it right. I’m putting in the effort that this story needs, because it’s something I’ve fallen in love with, and the words on the page should reflect that.
I’m interested to hear from other writers about projects they’ve been waist deep in and realized they had to start over. Did you try to power through like I did before realizing it was okay to take a step back?
I look forward to sharing bits and pieces as I write them this time around.
Until next time Internet,