When to Scrap Your Chapters(and begin Anew)

When to Scrap Your Chapters(and begin again)…

Traci Kenworth

Recently, this happened to me. I thought my chapters were all set, headed in the right

direction. But the comments I got weren’t very encouraging. It was recommended I scrap them and begin anew. All the frustration that settles in at those words can be hard to contain. However, when you mull things over, sometimes you find the reviewer was right: the chapters did bog things down, crawl along, do nothing to further the plot.

So when you get past the point of setting your pride aside you continue to come back to reality. It isn’t working. Time to cut. At first, I tried to go back and twist parts into a new beginning but after three days of hitting a wall, I decided to begin afresh. And, is often the case, the solution came when I divorced myself from the story, occupied my Muse elsewhere, and then just as I drifted off to sleep, the first two sentences came to me.

Could they work? Probably? Was it the right place to start? We’d see. The next morning, I set to work. Slowly, the beginning began to take shape. Yes, each word worked, fit together stronger than the last until I had my whole. I was even able to bring back pieces of the original scraps and insert them and they added a depth that wasn’t there before!

It’s extremely hard and humbling to get to the point where you realize the “masterpiece” you thought you had: isn’t par se. Often, it takes a few hard knocks. But if you listen, truly listen to what’s being said, and it makes sense, run with it. This is not to say to change your entire book to suit others. Far from it. But in my case, I wasn’t following my strong first two chaps with another two(from a different character’s v.p.). They were weak, and brought the story down to a yawn.

Cut the deadwood, they say. So, I did. And you know what? Re-writing those first two chaps have really cliqued and made me think, why didn’t I do so in the first place? As I said, it takes a bit to get to that point when you reach down inside of you and pull out the right pieces to the work. But it can be done. And your story will be so much better for it.

What I did was to go through the chapters that needed fix, and write down the main points I was trying to get across. I still was able to pull these notes together with the rewrite but in a setting which brought the character into the hub of the story, and which brought more urgency to their plight. Now, we develop a greater sense of fear for the heroine, for what’s lurking just beyond reach of her campfire.

Of course, her life goes unaware at this point but soon, very soon, that will change.

So, it can be done. You can take those forlorn chapters and shred them into something amazing. Come at them from a different angle, more insight into your character. Cut the excess and step out on the branch, test your faith, and feel yourself soar. Things can only get better.

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6 thoughts on “When to Scrap Your Chapters(and begin Anew)

  1. Great post Traci! I think it’s hard as writers to determine what needs to stay and what needs to go. I have that happen all the time. This time around it was my ending (LOL).

    But hang in there. You’ll get through it…

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  2. I’m at this very point right now. I sent off my latest chapter to one of my critique partners and she sent it back with the email title, “Don’t hate me, but.” I knew I was in trouble.

    Actually, she’s done this a couple of times, and though I get defensive at first, “What? You just didn’t get it! It’s you not me.” But when I sit back and look at it, I know my crit partner is right. Every time I go back and rework it, I find it’s soo much better. Just like you, I think why didn’t I write it that way in the first place? I guess it isn’t until I’m pushed to go beyond my comfort zone, that the true creativity comes–does that make any sense?

    Anyway, I’m sitting on this chapter that needs reworked, struggling to get it right, but knowing I need to fix it–for the better.

    Great post.

    (I love the girl with the blue tears <—- it's awesome).

    ~Angela

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    1. Thanks, Angela!! It’s so hard to step back and let others words sink in, especially when it comes to our writing. I just want to cry with frustration sometimes but you’re right, you learn to pick yourself up and go on and what often comes out is better than what you left behind. My problem at the moment, is striving to patch the story back together now. Lol. It will happen. Just not sure how right now.

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  3. Thanks, Rebekah. I’m still mulling over the effect of rewriting these chapters and taking out the third as it contradicts what happens in Silver’s next chaps. Will have to ponder and rewrite more to tell if it works. I really like what I did in rewrites don’t get me wrong. It’s just timeline-wise, I’ll have to scramble to figure things out.

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  4. I’ve been here before. Are you a plotter pr pantser? I always used to pantz, but lately I’ve been outlining a bit more officially before i start and am finding it’s helping.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  5. I’m sort of half-and-half. I work from a reverse outline at the start but sometimes new twists come in. I try and keep it as close to the outline as possible with the new material, but, yeah, deviations of the original.

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