Tearing down your own work

Sometimes you have to take something you’ve created and stomp it to pieces in order to make it work.

Earlier this week I began writing a novel I’ve dabbled with on and off for years. I’ve made a few aborted attempts to write it, but other things have always gotten in the way. It has remained incomplete, sort of taunting me from my files. I like the story and world of the novel. I’ve always intended to finish it. So now I’m doing exactly that.

At the moment, I have eight chapters completed out of a projected 30 to 40. Thing is, those chapters are crap. Oh, the story they tell is a good story, but the writing? The writing is garbage. See, those chapters were written about seven years ago, the last time I put an effort into getting this story told.

I am a much better writer now than I was seven years ago.

This leaves me with two options: Heavily revise what I have, or start from scratch and re-write them from the ground up. It’s got to be the latter. There is only so much you can do to whip bad writing into shape — believe me, in my day job as an editor I’ve tried — so that leaves you with scrapping a load of work. I hate having to redo things. When I’ve finished something, I want to be done with it. Finished. Over. But that won’t work here. If I want it to be as good as it can be, I’ve got to rewrite this material.

So pages and pages and pages of writing will be clipped, cut, torn up, trashed, killed, beaten, stomped. Hours and hours and days and days of work tossed onto the scrap pile.

‘Cause sometimes that’s just what you have to do.


  1. Ian Sokoliwski

    Yep. Been there, done that. There was one project I completely re-started…and now, a couple of years later, I would only get back to it if I entirely re-started it again.

    Which can be a pretty cathartic process once in a while.

  2. admin

    Cathartic is right. It’s very difficult to do, but once you steel yourself for the process it can be pretty liberating.

    I’m still working on steeling myself!

    But I think it will be for the best.

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