Not so long ago, I printed out some pages to edit for Bound to the Heart, a WIP that has been in the works for several years now. This was the first time in about a year that I took a serious look at it. I dabbled with it here and there, but not in a way that I'd count as significant progress.
Overall, it's been a tough, uneventful writing year for me, and part of that has to do with hitting a rough patch with BttH.
With writing, or really any creative pursuit, I'll try and remind myself that I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have and with where my skills are, and that's often the measure by which I'll determine whether or not to move to the next stage of a project. With writing, this can mean enlisting a team of beta readers after several rounds of edits, for example. Knowing that I've done absolutely everything I can and understanding where I need to bring in help to improve the work hasn't done away with those pesky, bothersome feelings of perfectionism I'm constantly at war with, but has made them easier to contend with.
BttH, however, isn't ready. At least, not in the current state it's in.
After countless drafts, I had a few beta readers take a look at it and, after implementing their critiques and advice, I even dipped a toe into the querying trenches—very briefly, mind you.
Things didn't turn out as I hoped, and there was valid reason for that, even though I couldn't recognize it at the time.
In the moment, there was simply disappointment and admittedly a bit of embarrassment for lack of a better term.
Impostor syndrome, a topic I've touched on several times here on the blog, really sank in. I started questioning not only the direction of that one story, but others in progress. Whether or not I was ready for this, wondering if my ideas were A) good enough B) worth writing and C) worth reading.
There were quite a few bitter truths to swallow, to the point I felt as though I were choking on them.
There was the obvious disappointment when things didn't turn out as I had hoped, and that made it a bit hard to dive back in for another round of edits.
In fact, it made it hard to do any writing.
That's one of the reasons I took a hiatus from blogging this year. I needed to regroup and refresh.
The blog was the first writing space I came back to, and I eventually began balancing it with the first draft of a new WIP completely unrelated to BttH. Knowing the flaws my beta readers pointed out in the past makes it easier to watch out for those missteps in new projects. The new Regency romance I'm drafting remains untitled and is very much a fledgling, meaning it's still quite fragile and new, but I'm feeling more confident about it in this first draft than I was with BttH at any of its later stages.
Recognizing the changes in my style made me feel ready to take on a round of revisions because I could see what wasn't working with BttH and hopefully rework it.
Around October, I decided I was ready to dust it off and dive in again.
It wasn't as simple as I expected.
I went about this round of edits as I had every other one: printing out the text and marking it up.
If you've seen those memes about highlighting every line of a textbook because everything seems like important information, then you've seen what most pages of my printout looked like—except for the fact that the notes were changes I needed to make and pointing out weaker points.
Compared to where my abilities as a writer are now, the state BttH was left in is, to be frank, paltry.
Even though the sting was brutal then, and I'm still reeling from the experience in some respects, I'm able to see why I didn't find success when I attempted querying. It's not a great feeling, but it is a good start to getting better.
Looking over what I made notes about throughout the first five or so chapters, so many comments pertained to the narration.
I've made an effort to give my writing a more "storyteller-esque" tone as opposed to the distant observer POV I favored for so long, and that's coming through clearly with the untitled WIP I only started on a few months ago.
BttH (and FitS and AHV if we're going to be completely honest here) doesn't have that same spark.
I tried to weave it into what was already there, but it seemed disjointed rather than seamlessly added.
That's when I made the decision to rewrite it from scratch. To tear it to shreds, to the bone, and rebuild it from the ground up.
The idea alone was intimidating, especially since I've never done anything of this nature before, but the fact is starting over with this new perspective is the best plan of attack.
My writing style has changed so much since I last worked with BttH, something that's become evident when I compare the most recent draft of that WIP to the partial first draft of the one I began only recently. Even though there are constants throughout, so many things are different.
I'm not only looking at BttH from a different perspective, but as a different writer. So starting a fresh draft the way I would start a new WIP feels right.
I do have my stack of annotated pages beside me, but they're acting more as a guide. They're a separate entity, so to speak.
Two separate versions of BttH. One drawing inspiration from the other, one informing the other.
It's a lot to take in, but I'm already seeing progress and I can only hope that the completed rewrite outshines the predecessor I spent so long trying in vain to polish.