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Why You Should Consider Scrapping a Project and Starting from Scratch

It fascinates me how much joy my 1-year-old nephew derives from destruction. There’s this game we play where I build something out of his building blocks and he destroys the whole thing with great amusement. He seems to miss the whole point of building blocks….

At some point, I thought to myself that maybe he’s on to something…maybe destruction can be seen as a means of moving forward in life.

Recently a student asked me to critique a manuscript she was writing for school…After giving her my feedback, she asked, “So you think it’s going to be better if I start everything from scratch?”

I was glad she brought it up because, “Start from an empty page,” is something nobody likes to hear though personal experience has helped me gain great value from that.

Writers understand that second drafts and forty-eighth drafts are part of the process.

As I’ve written before, your work in progress is always a work in progress.

I once spent 8 years writing a story.

2007–2015.

The story took so many iterations but it only became complete after I stopped making incremental improvements , scrapped the whole thing (except for the characters and the main arc) and started over.

The secret was disruption, not just incremental improvements.

Another thing is, when you start from scratch, you don’t really start from scratch. Draft number 1 may sit in history as an inventory of pieces and ideas you can use as building blocks for draft 2. Even if you don’t use any of that, then at least, you know what to avoid, so there’s something.

Starting over removes the limits imposed on you by an outline or a skeletal structure. You can mold things the way you want. Most importantly, you can remove everything that was only tangentially important and focus on the important aspect of building your product…piece of art…or even your life.

So if you’re in the middle of a project, and you know that it’s not working, you might need to consider going back to the drawing board and starting everything all over again.

It works.

Trust me on that.

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Published inWriting
  • Hanan

    I totally agree. It’s a little heartbreaking to let so much work go to waste, but it’s worth it. I did that twice in my PhD (starting from scratch), so hopefully now I know what I’m doing :-/