explode your manuscript.

Keyboard in abandoned garage 
I've been having book angst in recent weeks, which has been stalling my progress. There are some structural issues and a few character-related things I've been neglecting in favor of just trying to push through to the end, and I think that letting those sit around unattended was making me worry that I was putting them off because I couldn't fix them. There are times when I need to step back, get a little perspective, and remember that I can do anything that I want to in my story.

So today, I blew the whole damn thing up.

It was fun, and if you're stressing to the point where you're sick of your current project then maybe you should try it too.

First, I backed everything up very, very thoroughly. I put a copy of the book on a USB stick and another one on a file backup website. Then I made a duplicate of my working file and gave it a ridiculous filename. After I was sure that my regular copy was safe, I spent a couple of hours with that new file and went nuts.

I went to the first appearance of one character and changed her position and role in the story. I rearranged some scenes. I nuked a couple of sections of dialogue that I'd never been happy with and wrote a brief villain POV bit where he was making fun of my leads. I pushed one particular exchange much farther than it goes in my regular draft. I re-outlined my ending to make it meaner.

As you might expect, I broke things pretty thoroughly. I didn't worry about that, or about keeping everything consistent. The point was to play, to work out some of my frustrations, and to remind me not to limit myself.

It was basically like a brainstorming session, but it felt really satisfying to do all that in my actual project file. The best part is that some of the changes, once they're toned down just a bit, are things I can actually use.

Tomorrow I'm going to take a step back and work on a prequel short story to reconnect with the protagonist outside of my main plot. Then it's back into the fray, and hopefully the sense of optimism left from today's experiment will stick around.

photo by Ryan McFarland (via Flickr) used under Creative Commons

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like a really good exercise. My inner editor gets the best of me on a regular basis (hence my lack of finishing anything. ever.). I think this could be just the thing to shut that little voice up for a while. :)

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  2. It was amazingly fun to just sit around and let myself play with the story. There are times when I get down on myself and forget that if I just keep working and thinking and brainstorming about a problem then I'll get through it eventually.

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