That’s a truism I’ve heard many writers say (or read many writers write). Very rarely is there such a thing as a perfect first draft. You’ll go through a lot of deleting, and editing, and scraping completely to start from the bare bones. It’s hard, because you put all this work into something and then you have to come to grips with the fact that it may not be all that good, and it’s going to take even more work to make it good. But it’s like any product. If it’s not up to standard, it’s back to the drawing board. Or writing board, as the case may be.
Now the reason for me to reiterate truisms said decades before me is that right now I am rewriting may more than writing. As I get closer to the epilogue of SoW, I begin to go back to other chapters, prepping them for publication. Now these rewrites are more or less easy, as they are mostly proofreads and little edits. I have come across very few scenes where I thought “this is no good. I have to scrap and start over.”
Which is my current problem with the latest chapters.
As you are reading the early 300s, I am writing the 350-360 set of chapters. And admittedly, I’ve been struggling with them. I couldn’t do much more than forge through them, tweaking here and there to something I was more or less satisfied with. And after working this way for a couple of days, I saved my work, turned off my computer, went to bed, and promptly thought “that was terrible!” And it has successfully halted me from continuing on to later chapters and then coming back to fix them, because I had written myself into a corner where no good plot progression could come out of it. And I have spent days racking my brain for solutions, to the point that I dream very vividly about writing solutions (all of which are really bad when waking up in reflection). But mostly I’ve really just had to wrestle with the fact that what’s there can’t be fixed. It needs to go. Because of how much time and brain power I have put into this set, I was much more reluctant than I usually am (because I am all about the rewrites, and will often write several different approaches to the same scene) But once I came to terms with the inevitable, I started to feel less anxious about it. Solutions started to creep in and vaguely form. Today on my work break, I sketched out a quick and new plot progression for them scene, and tossed my notebook in my locker feeling much lighter and happier, thinking “this is the story I want. This will make everything better.” And aside from the annoying fact that days of work will be for naught, I feel good knowing that it’s for a better story.
So I guess that’s my advice to you. Don’t be afraid to change to the story for the better of it. Don’t be afraid to look at your work with subjectivity and without ego and recognize bad for bad and don’t be satisfied until it’s good. A bad story is just one that was finished too soon (another cliche, but it works in context).
But I do have another piece of advice, in the rewrite and delete business. Keep the stuff you like. Even if it won’t work for the scene, or the scene won’t work for the story. Keep the stuff that you know is really good. Tuck it away in a file somewhere, or write it down on a notecard and stick it in a box. You never know when you’ll find the perfect moment for it.