I’ve got pretty close to 10,000 words that go into a rabbit hole and don’t come out.
It would be easy to call them wasted. They’re not, and I’d like to explain why.
In the process of writing about Mike and Wendi and Chem (Jim) I got a few fun paragraphs and some concepts that will undoubtedly be swiped for later work. I also had some self-discovery, learning what I was writing and what I was envisioning.
See, I thought I was writing an urban fantasy. Let me mention, in brief but inevitable digression, that there are two sorts of urban fantasy, each with its own conventions. Version one comes from the Romance genre. Your protagonist, almost always female, must be attracted-repelled to-by a Significant Other. The other genre comes from the sf-fantasy world, particularly the Young Adult Outsider story. That is, your protagonist Does Not Fit regular society, and society tries very hard to square the round sides to fit the appropriate holes.
Digressing the digression, the most common aspect of all young adult books is the discovery that what were believed friends and enemies aren’t. There’s a reason, of course. It’s a metaphoric reflection of various changes from being a child to being an adult, and discovering that you Are Not Your Parents. It’s a reason so much Modern Fantasy goes on the juvenile/young adult shelves.
Anyway, the story I was writing wasn’t. Yes, originally Mike was an outsider, but he wasn’t really. Neither was Wendi.
What really broke it was when I looked back on the story, thought about the magic I’d created, and realized it made my story impossible. Or at least made it highly improbable.
On the other hand, actually looking at that has created a very simple outline, one I’ll be expanding today. I have a story, I’m no longer letting some characters wander about with a “Nifty Thing”.
In the end, what the ten thousand words have been is doodling with text. I’ve seen artists do this, drawing little sketches and shapes and shadows, varying styles even in the same piece, none of it a finished piece. Sooner or later most of what they’ve done, or something like it, appears in a later “real” piece. None of it is wasted, even that which is never used, because that’s the stuff that is “no, this won’t work” instead of being forced in and breaking everything.
I suggest you not be afraid to write scenes, to bring characters from nowhere and see how they play with your beach, with your concept, with your protagonist. Don’t throw them away but instead tuck them in a notebook, in a file to review later. Because it may turn out you’re not doing the book you thought. Or perhaps there’s another book. Regardless, it isn’t wasted. It’s practice.
Now I need to go back to the fantasy I’m writing which is looking more and more like, well, NOT an urban fantasy in either conventional manner. (If I had to peg a genre right now, I lean toward “military modern fantasy” — think military sf genre using magic instead of advanced tech. But we’ll see – something about that still isn’t sitting well.)
Have fun, all.