2015 was the year of the do-over for me. I rewrote my novel for maybe the ninth time, re-queried, signed with a new agent, and restarted my career as a writer. We’re asked as writers to go back and rework a lot, a constant stream of do-overs and revisions and critique and notes. Rejection sucks. Being told no sucks. Going back to the drawing board is one of the chief things that ties writers and artists together.
Do we take the advice or not? If we’re told to start over, how do we tackle a change in POV? A change in major character, voice, setting, plot? We try again.
I spent almost three years in a state of constant do-over. I went from first person, to third, to first on a Young Adult horror book I was querying. When I signed with my first agent, we went through revision after revision with no submission until we hit a wall: there was a possibility my book was actually middle grade, not YA. I would have to redo everything, again, after working on this idea over and over since 2009 from a script to a YA book and now I’d have to trash it all and start over. How did I feel about that?
I was so relieved to trash a novel that just wasn’t working. No matter what strings I pulled, the ball just tangled more and more. I happily trashed the entire idea, took the basic concept, rewrote it completely different people using the same names and I had a book I was proud of.
What is so scary about starting over? Why do we cringe when someone says go back?
Because we think it invalidates how far we’ve come. It doesn’t.
Don’t be afraid to start over. In January, we start a lot of new resolutions. A bright new year and a fresh start to all the things we’re going after.
But for some, there is a crippling fear of having the courage to start an old project over, of having to tackle revisions, deciding whether to leave an agent or not, or whether a queried project just needs to be shelved.
As someone who spends a lot of time redoing, be it art or illustration, this art thing doesn’t work unless we have the courage to try and fail and pick ourselves back up again. If you’re reading this and afraid of failing, let yourself feel that fear. Look it in the eye and accept it. Instead of pushing it down, telling it to go away, welcome it. Once you do, you’ll find starting over to be less scary than you once thought.