|Herman Melville is 352 pages into Moby Duck|
before he realizes it ought to be about a whale.
For at least a year and a half, I have been working on a new novel. I won't give away any details, but suffice to say it is brilliant. It has a secret government agency, a woman who's been struck three times by lightning, kidnappings, suspense, and frogs. Can hardly wait to read it, right?
So since the first of September, I've been working on three consecutive scenes. The scenes are short and interconnected and run about ten pages. But you need to understand. These were ten hard pages. From keys that scorched the fingers I wrote and rewrote, re-rewrote, and re-re-rewrote them in the pre-dawn hours before going to my job. I agonized over description and dialogue; I considered and weighed every word and comma. I would go to sleep thinking about the phrasing of a single sentence, wake up and revise it, think about it on the drive to work, and revise again the next day.
Then yesterday it hit me. The scenes just weren't working. I'd put the climax precisely in the wrong spot; I'd introduced at least two additional characters I could do without; I'd neglected to work with at least one indispensable character; I'd missed a valuable opportunity to build tension; and I needed at least two additional scenes I hadn't even considered.
So those ten pages I worked so hard on. Scrapped. I'll have to start afresh. I can save a few shards and fragments here and there, but not much. By the way, these new scenes promise to be even more difficult for me than the ones I'd already written.
Here is the message for my fellow novelists. I have not wasted a month of my life. What I have accomplished is valuable. I am one massive wrong turn closer to my next masterpiece.