As I worked on my most recent set of NaNoWriMo short-form projects, the serialized episodes of Phantom Traveler, I ran into a stitch.
Love & Pickpockets and The Bantam (working title) were both new drafts. Even though The Bantam was based on existing work, it was a prequel, and the later work, I knew, would evolve to match it. That seemed challenging enough—knowing rules but also knowing those rules didn’t have to matter—but now that I try to move on, in the footsteps of work I did before, it was very difficult to break from the text I’d already written.
Finally, I became aware of my issue: I was struggling to write new content because I believed, in my heart, that I’d already written the best version of those earlier drafts that were humanly (or at least, Rekka-ly) possible.
This, of course, is balderdash. There is no one way to tell a story any more than there is one way to sing a song. A new twist, time away, and a fresh perspective often do wonders for a story.
Not to mention these original drafts were written over a year ago. I believe I’ve improved drastically since then. But they felt so correct at the time (even though I had lots of notes of ways to improve them), it felt like being boisterous in a graveyard to open a new document and work without copy/pasting in the old.
So you might think that, having recognized this and applied the lesson to successfully complete a totally new first draft of the first serial episode, I have learned from this mistake and will not do it again.
Wrong. I already feel a storm front of another, identical, battle looming. I’m already fighting the urge to paste-and-revise rather than draft anew.
We writers are a sorry lot. Good thing the stories are worth it.