Little Bones
Trouble in the Playground

ROW80-1 check in - 03/03 - Which pile? Editing or trash?

Edit - this was of course supposed to be the 03/03 check in - changed it.

I finished my first edit of my first novel last Thursday. Now what? Do I keep editing, or just trash it?

I wrote that first novel in 2010, as part of NaNoWriMo. It was my first fiction really, so I was both surprised and pleased at completing what seemed a half decent story.

However - since then I have read a lot more about how to write, about things like character development, and dialogue, and setting, and structure. I wrote two more novels, first one as a sequel to #1, and then for the second chose a different theme, a Fairy Tale one. I wrote about 80 flash fictions since then too, and still am doing them. I read about Mary Carroll's storyboarding and her "W" flow of falling and rising action, of Acts and Turning Points. I read Larry Brooks' Story Structure series, a similar approach. I read a lot of other articles about structure and design and plotting, then settled on a variation of the "W" storyboarding. I found that structure worked quite well for my second and third novels. Not sure why, maybe  because it's a good structure for me, maybe because I made them fit into it, but it worked. 

As for novel #1, as I said, I felt it needed more to it. I wrote it before learning about how to design and structure a book, and find adding that after the fact is difficult. Or maybe there's just not that much to work with. When I went through it, I found that the turning points weren't that exciting, there was no big 'battle', the main goal changed a few times. I've gone in now and boosted some areas, changed the focus here and there, added more to the sub-plots, done a bit of scene shuffling, but still it's just an OK story. I do like parts of it, the overall plot is interesting, I like the characters, but it's not something I'd be ready to publish.

The conundrum is, what now? Do I keep at it? Do I pull it apart, focus the goals of the characters, build up the few key parts to be better turning points and shuffle the scenes back in? Or, do I leave it as a learning exercise, stuff it in a drawer, and start editing #2, the sequel? 

Advice appreciated folks. 

Status update - I missed the Wednesday check in, so this is for the past week: 

  • Editing - I finished my first editing pass of novel #1. For this pass I printed it out, went through with pen in hand, did some minor restructuring, and typed the changes in via Scrivener. A nice feeling of accomplishment. Sort of - see above.
  • Writing - Did a story for Flash Fiction Friday, Little Bones. Not a lot of meat in the story, but I think it could be a good start. It's on the same theme I had with a previous story on a portal. 
  • Other
    • I've watched Season One of Once Upon a Time, and now I am halfway through Season Two. Interesting blend of two worlds, and a lot of double characters. Some obvious bits, some subtle bits. Gives me some ideas of things I could do - and not do - in my Fairy Tale Folk stories. 
    • Finished my second read of Cool Water, for my book club tomorrow night.
    • Courses - finishing up Astrobiology - last week. Starting one on Aboriginal Worldviews and Education. Interesting course, I may not do quizzes or assignments, but I will at least watch lectures, to help with my background in novels 1 and 2.  

TBD - clean the house, buy nibbles and wine for the Monday night book club. Keep writing. Find something to edit.




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Beth Camp

I enjoy your posts, Mike, for the heady mix of analysis, creativity, and accountability you present. Re revision for that first book, I see lots of work done on learning the craft. Some writers would recommend just tossing that first novel. But your comments suggest there's something there that draws you back into the story -- and you are writing Book 2, yes? I read somewhere that the more books you can publish (especially in a series), the more likely you are to build an audience for your storytelling. But are you asking how many revisions? I'm on revision 5 for my Book 1 and revision 3 for my Book 2. I'll be interested to see what others say. Perseverance furthers. When you are 99.9% satisfied, then you can say, "I'm done!"


Thanks for the feedback, Beth. I'm not sure if there's enough in the first book to develop as now I think it should be, to make it more exciting. Maybe I'll loook at the second one, from a structural high level view, and make sure it's arranged well. That may reflect back on what happens in Book 1 of the set, and help me with that.

Shan Jeniah Burton


Have you considered making it a novella, or using it for parts to flesh out the sequels?

Another idea is from Rachel Aaron's 2K to 10K, which I just finished reading.

She uses a To-Do list for her revisions, then prioritizes and deals with them one at a time, rather than doing a front-to-back edit. Large problems like weak motivation and turning points would be dealt with early on.

I suggest you not trash it...maybe it just needs more time, or a new kind of life.

At the least, it can be a monument to all you've learned...

May you write amply, nibble happily, and find some editing to round things out!

Eden Mabee

First novels... There is something appealing about them (I'm in the same boat at the moment, with a story, Release, I'd started sending out to betas and now realize just "isn't there yet"). Maybe it's that sense that it's the first thing we wrote "The End" on? I hope not, but I do have to wonder sometimes the same way you seem to be wondering.

That said, as much as the "W" story structure maybe very popular, it isn't the only way to write a story. Sometimes, I think it actually damages a story that was written to a different format.

If you want, I can take some time and look your story over. No need to return the favor (though if you'd like, I'd be delighted). Maybe another set of eyes would see things you do not?


Thx Shan - I've decided to not trash it yet. A couple of friends people have agreed to take a look at it form a high level point of view, then I'll see where I can add a bit of kick to it.

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