The sinking feeling hit me yesterday, as I was in my local coffee shop trying to make sense of my novel outline.

A month ago, things seemed to be moving at a nice clip. I’d written about 12,000 words – seven or eight chapters – and outlined the rest of the book. I felt good. I just need to write through the outline. No easy task, but doable. Right? Right.

The next day, on my way to work something hit me. An idea. It was perfect. It took the characters where they needed to go. It brought some real heart to the story. It mattered.

Only problem? It had absolutely nothing to do with the book I was writing.

But hey, denial’s a wonderful thing. I figured I’d put the book aside for a bit, then revisit. I’ll integrate this new idea and everything will be rosy. Right? Right.

Yet, for some reason, the revisiting kept getting put off. Well past the “bit” I’d originally anticipated. I didn’t want to. Why?

That’s what I realized while finally dusting off the file titled “Novel 3 Manuscript and outline” yesterday. I didn’t want to because it wouldn’t work. This great idea — this idea worthy of a book — didn’t mesh with what was already on paper. All 12,000 words of it. I mean, sure, there were bits that could be salvaged. That great, scary opening scene. Character bits sprinkled around. But the over-arching plot had to go to make room for this thing that popped into my head at the absolute WORST possible time.

But that’s the moral of the story. This happens. That’s what writing is. You have to be able to rip it up and start again, as Orange Juice said. My soon-to-be brother-in-law, who’s a writer and artist himself, made a great point that I’m not sure I would have reached as quickly on my own: no writing is ever wasted. It’s all practice for the final work. The bits and scenes and snippets of dialogue you toss out aren’t ever totally gone – they inform what the finished product will be.

So, what am I doing this weekend? Clicking “File -> New” and starting again.