Making Cuts

On an earlier blog post, I talked about feeling frustrated with my superhero/urban fantasy project. I took a step back from it and started working on something else, thinking that a little space would help me get past the block I was facing with that story.

Being right feels so good sometimes, especially when I’m right about myself.

I’ve now been plugging along on that project, currently titled Unmasked, for a few solid weeks now and I’m so happy with how it’s taking shape. That’s not to say that it’s been perfect. Last Thursday I hit the halfway point on the first draft and freaked out a little bit, because something still felt off. 

After a loud and lengthy conversation with myself about it, I realized that I didn’t feel like the stakes were high enough. And if I, the author who loves these characters and has put little bits of herself into so much of the story, didn’t feel like it was enough for the main character to lose, then any other reader would most definitely agree.

So I upped the ante. A lot. And spent Saturday re-plotting the book.

On the one hand, it’s sort of a bummer. A lot of scenes that I really loved don’t serve the plot anymore. But I’ll hang on to them. Scrivener doesn’t let me delete much for good anyway… the “Trash” folder is more like a holding cell. Some of those conversations and settings might make it into later books in this series, or even into other projects. Or maybe they won’t. It’s okay.

Because on the other hand, this book is going to be so much stronger now. It’ll be so much more enjoyable to write and to read that I won’t mourn the pieces that don’t make it into the final draft. They served a purpose. They helped me get this story where it needs to go. Through writing them, I was able to explore aspects of my characters and really firm up their personalities and their motivations.

I went through this exact same thing with Donn’s Hill, only quite a bit earlier in that draft. I realized I’d been writing a lot of scenes where lots of cool stuff happened, but all that cool stuff didn’t do much for Mac’s journey or help her solve the murder mystery. They had to go, but I don’t regret having taken the time to write them.

I’m often struck by how much the process of writing a book or story mirrors the larger arc of my own life. I spent a lot of years chasing the wrong path, choosing my career over so many other things. It took getting really sick for me to take a step back and reassess things. Just like with Unmasked, a little time away from work and hobbies and even social situations helped me realize what I really wanted to do with my life.

Then by some miracle, I found the courage to do what I’d always secretly wanted to do, but never dared. Quit my job and write full-time.

A lot of things that didn’t pan out in my past led me to where I am today. I don’t consider those jobs, bands, or relationships wastes. If any of them had worked out better, I wouldn’t be sitting here now, writing this blog post about how my second novel is going.

And in my opinion, that’s pretty cool.