When I started writing Her Private Chef, it started out as a contemporary romance. It was supposed to be sweet, angsty (I do love emotional conflict in novels), hot and intense, culminating in a well-deserved happily ever after.
That’s not what I wrote.
Somewhere around 20,000 words, I panicked. Convinced I was going to run out of story, I decided I needed more girth to the plot. A sub-plot, maybe. Or even two. My simple story suddenly turned into a stalker suspense with a sub-plot forcing two secondary characters together who really didn’t “fit” together. It wasn’t at all what I’d envisioned when I first started writing, but anything to get a first draft done, right?
I spent a month just trying to figure out where to start with revisions. I thought it was my own lack of knowledge (and part of it was), and signed up for a course (I don’t regret that one bit, by the way). I took my ms through the first part of the course, fighting an uphill battle once I finally started to rewrite. The problem was, I’d written the wrong story in the first place. That’s why revising it has been so difficult – it wasn’t the story I’d originally planned or started writing. It wasn’t even close to the story I wanted. I’d missed the target, due to my mid-draft “freak-out”, and then made it worse trying to revise the mutant draft.
I can’t decide if this is a “pantsing vs. plotting” issue (I didn’t plot this story the first time), or all due to my little freak-out session. It’s probably a little of both. The more I think about the story I *want* this to be in the rewrite, the more I think I could have avoided the “mutations” if I’d just planned it out better, and known more about my characters before I started writing. Then again, I think lately my writing has been suffering from all the craft-advice I’ve been reading/implementing (too much focus on technicalities, not enough on “feel” and description). Sometimes it’s better to just stop thinking so hard about writing, and just write.
In any case, I know what my target is now. I’m re-plotting, and working out things like back story before I start writing again. I’m going back to my original premise, taking out the suspense elements, and aiming for straight, hot, contemporary romance – which is what I wanted it to be in the first place. I’m excited, because this story hasn’t felt “right” in months, and now that I’ve regrouped, it’s flowing easily again.
I hope that with a little more careful brainstorming and character-driven plotting, I can keep from doing this too often in the future. Learning how to finish drafts by “just writing” no matter what came out was a good way to build confidence in getting to “The End”, but now that I’m past that, I want to focus on writing well the first time out, rather than just writing to get words down. Just another stage of my writing “journey”.
I’m assuming I’m not the only one who’s “missed the target” with a draft before – when was the last time you found yourself writing the “wrong” story? How did you regroup (or did you just let it go, and start over with a new idea)?