Wednesday, January 3, 2018
IWSG: Start Over
Every single year, on January first, I pay way too much attention to what I'm doing for the first time that year. I recognize my first meal of the year, my first reading of the year, so on and so forth, and try not to attach any symbolic importance to all of it. (I usually fail at that.) I think the new year triggers some weird part of what I call "writer brain", and prompts me to think that everything's significant just because the calendar rolled over.
But this got me thinking: if I'm going to be a little bit neurotic about the new year, there has to be some way for me to use it to my advantage, to get something good out of it. I looked back at how my attempts at writing went in 2017, and at all the time I spent trying to make things work when they just plain wouldn't.
And I realized that the new year is the best time to start over.
I think a lot of the problems I had with making stories work was that I kept trying to build on what I'd already done, or take a few elements that I thought worked and put them into something else, stuff like that. Most of the ideas I worked on were things I'd been messing with for quite a while. To be fair, that doesn't mean none of those older ideas could work - as I said a few entries ago, one of my current projects is something I first started working on in 2014. But I think that one's an exception.
It's possible, maybe even likely, that I would have had a much easier time last year if I'd been willing to just start things over - to let go of what I'd done before and come at it completely fresh. You can build up a tremendous amount of baggage around a story idea that won't work. I know this very well; there's a story file somewhere on my computer that's more than fifty pages long and doesn't have a single complete plot or reasonably-developed character anywhere in it, because I kept trying to find a new angle on the same idea instead of just dropping it and starting over.
Hell, my idea file has three or four variants on an idea from 2016 that I never could get to work. Some of those notes include sarcastic comments about how I'm still trying. And saying mean things to myself in my idea file kind of says it all about last year.
Anyway. I'm sure that everyone who reads this has different processes for going from idea to finished story. But I know I'm not the only one to try to build a new story on the broken bones of another. So this is me giving advice in IWSG for the first time in I don't know how long:
Stop that. Start over. Start anew. Build your story without looking back. Because I think you've got a better shot at finding what the story's supposed to be if you're not trying to keep pieces from what it's not. One of my two plots-in-progress is something completely new for me, and it's the one that's going really well.
So I hope that, in the new year, starting anew will work well for you too.