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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Blank Page: Why Starting Over Is Sometime the Only Option

Jan. 27

A few weeks ago, I stood on the balcony of my rented beach condo and watched a group of workmen drive posts  for a new boardwalk across the dunes. 

The problem? The men had put the posts in the wrong place and at the wrong depth. I knew this because I could see the string marking the edges of the deck from my balcony. The men knew this because they kept consulting the plans for the boardwalk.

Then the crew set to work to ‘fix’ the mistake. 

They installed other posts a few inches inside the boundary to match the misplaced ones. 

They cut one post down a few more inches so it set at the ‘right’ height. 

Feb. 8-After the reset
They brought in a Ditch Witch and spent an afternoon, scooping out sand, piling up sand, and tearing up the dune.

On the third day, the foreman showed up. He took one look at the posts and lost his ever-loving mind. I think he cussed for an hour. Then the crew set to work digging up the posts, re-surveying the site, and setting new posts in place.

My current WIP is a lot like that darn boardwalk. I was no more than one-quarter of the way into it when I knew it wasn’t working. But I thought I could fix it in post. After all, I have eight novels under my belt, I know how to make running changes and tweak a scene to go from meh to whoa!

But not this story. A year later—and after several author friends gently scolded me for letting it get into such shape—I dug out the posts (characters) and resurveyed the landscape (plot) and started all over. I moved my heroine' journey of recovery up six months so her internal issues were about trust and starting over rather than constant pain and physical therapy. I remove one major arc of my hero's story because I couldn't kill off both of his parents, which opened the doors to changing the fate of my villain. He gets his comeuppance in a most satisfying way now.

Feb 12
The story is flowing better, the characters are sparking and conflicting, and the writing is fun again. But I lost a good six months to stubbornness. What were the signs the story was failing? Simple:
  • inconsistent conflict
  • sputtering sexual chemistry
  • no emotional reaction from me as I wrote

What about you? 

Have you ever tried to ‘fix’ a story or scene, knowing it was wrong from the first sentence but not wanting to go back to the foundations?

How did it work?

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. If you want to know more about her as an author or looking for a Christmas gift idea, visit her Facebook page or her Amazon page.

Feb. 13

Feb. 16


  1. Perfect analogy for my writing life. Then I remember a screenwriting workshop..."if you are in love with that line, cut it". So many times we think something is working, but then, Poof!. Glad the story is back on track. Doris

    1. It's definitely more fun to watch than to live. :-) I've been watching the daily progress of the boardwalk. I assume it'll be done when I'm back here in November.

  2. Keena,

    How do I relate to this? Let me count the ways... lol The most drastic story overhaul I’ve done was when I realized I was telling the story from the wrong point of view—it was the hero’s story, not the heroine’s. The manuscript was completed, but it didn’t ‘read’ right. I wasn’t satisfied, but I didn’t know why. I put the story aside, and a few years later (yes, years), it hit me between the eyes. I’ve rewritten the story, but I’ve not published it. It’s just not quite right yet, but it’s closer.

    1. Sorry for the delayed response. Google is being difficult but I will put stubborn any bot.

      Overhauling a story is hard. Some days I want to print this one ou just so I can burn the pages in a barrel. But we will prevail. Right?

  3. I think many of us can empathize with this rewrite awfulness.
    At present, I am in the midst of a hot mess from a trilogy of fantasy novels I wrote in the beginning of my career and are going to be re-released. What a catastrophe. Anyway, I have thrown out pages of awfulness and now I'm practically going line by line rewriting the whole thing. The story line is good or I would just scrap it. I think it can be saved, but, oh my word, the work involved.
    It's easier to start out with a blank page and a new idea than to rewrite something that went south. It's quite the challenge.
    It's not the first time for me. Like you, Keena, I had a story from the wrong POV. You always get that gut feeling when you've screwed up a character and tried to make them tell the story when it isn't theirs to tell. I had to go back and change it just like you. Funny how things fall into place when you fix the problem. We're story tellers. It's what we love to do, but that sure doesn't mean it's easy.
    I'm glad that foreman caught the mistake they were making with the boardwalk before it had reached the final stage. I envy you in your beach condo. I'd love to be at the beach right now watching the ocean and hearing the waves roll in. Lucky you!
    All the best to you, Keena...

    1. It’s a rented condo, but it’s nice to spend a few weeks of winter at the beach. Good luck with your trilogy. I think our hot messes can produce some of our best work.

  4. I'm working on a rewrite, too, and it's just killing me. It's MASSIVE. And it's such a good story, every time I think of just lighting a match to it, I think, NOOOOOOOOO!!!! LOL Great post, Keena!

    1. Apparently it was a timely post. 😊 It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in my struggle.