Tuesday, January 6, 2015


A lot of people have asked me how I know I've hit on a winning idea when I start to write a book.  Although it will sound contradictory, the answer is simple - how many times have I restarted writing the same book?

All of the novels I've finished are on at least their third iterations.  No, I don't mean that I've edited them three times, but rather that I've started them, abandoned them, and then completely rewritten them from scratch at least three times.  Some books have even more starts.

That's because the idea for a new novel rarely comes out formed the first time.  I'll write the first 20 or so pages, and then I'll figure out it isn't working.  Either the characters are too generic or the pacing feels rushed, but whatever the case, I'll just stop.  And by stop, I don't mean "put in a desk drawer and come back to it with some tweaks later."  I mean I totally start over from the first line.

A book that keeps me coming back after so many restarts is one where I like the idea.  Yes, the first or second tries at writing it may have been idiocy in motion, but the underlying idea has strength.  It holds my attention enough for me to play around with, so that means I care enough to get it right.

If you find yourself going back to something you once thought was a cool idea, don't get discouraged if you have to scrap everything you wrote and start again.  The idea still works, and tackling it from a different angle shows that you've grown enough as a writer to recognize when the first stuff sucked.  Press forward and don't be afraid to keep restarting.  Maybe your writing required patience or a change of characters, but it has obviously occupied your thoughts enough to be worth trying.

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