Well, I meant to say this week that I'd finished the first draft of Shunga-Satori, but it didn't quite work out that way. That is, I finished it, but I suspect the vast majority of what I've written isn't usable. It's been a long time since I had a failure of this magnitude, but it's happened before, and I have long been prepared for the idea that it might happen again. And here we are.
How this went down: All through the first draft process of the story, I kept finding myself in situations where I was trying to justify the presence of things because they seemed necessary to the flavor of the whole. And dammitall, I knew that was a bad idea, but I kept telling myself, "Oh, no, it'll be different this time, you've got the chops this time to make it happen." It took exactly one read-through of the finished first draft to disabuse me of this conceit.
Old mistakes are surpassingly easy to make with new arrogance, and new arrogance has a way of creeping in when you're not looking. But each project is very much its own thing, and you can't solve the problems of one project with the approaches of another. I knew this all along, but I chose to ignore it, and now I'm paying the price.
Where from here? Well, I spent most of the weekend so far laying out and identifying what went wrong. It amounts to having too many moving parts that don't serve enough functions, so I figured out what to pare out and how to put what was left over to proper use. A whole swath of characters turned out to be redundant — they essentially mirrored existing ones in no constructive way — so out they went. That led, in turn, to a slew of other things to be axed. The trick now is to figure out what I can just let go, and what else might need to be swapped in.
I suspect my constant struggle against the grain of the story was what contributed to my low-level feelings of exhaustion while working on it. When you're fighting your story the entire time you're writing it, and not even aware you're fighting it, it's at least as enervating as having someone else badgering you about your work, line by line, over your shoulder.
Next step, which I'm already in the middle of, is going through the book scene by scene and writing a new outline based on those changes. I'm guessing maybe 40% of what I've already written is usable, but the rest will get the ax, and the sooner I do it without flinching the better. I've already found a few places where conceits I had for the story can be replaced with stronger, more interesting ones.
Like I said, this isn't my first go-round with this kind of disaster. At least twice now I've written entire book-length manuscripts that ended up in the trash. One turned out, in retrospect, to be a plagiary of Notes From Underground; another had a few good ideas that I eventually cannibalized for other projects, so there is no point in going back and trying to rescue that one now.
I could have, I guess, turned my back on this and left it for dead. But one of the other skills I've picked up along the way is figuring out how to take a stillborn project and resurrect it. There's enough life in this one yet; it's just going to take a little more time than I originally hoped.