1) The first chapter is almost reality, about me, and I ultimately married the federal agent.
2) I threw the entire manuscript away and started over . . . twice.
You read that right. I put time between the first draft and me, and when I picked it back up, I realized it stunk . . . big time. All first drafts stink. Let me repeat that. All. First. Drafts. Stink.
You are NOT the exception. Chances are, your second draft stinks, too, just a little less so. I threw away that second draft, too.
All. First. Drafts. Stink.
You have to get over the fact you've invested months, if not years, in those first two drafts.That's your growing, learning, struggling phase anyway. What artist wants to flaunt those early sketches, where he couldn't get the hands quite right or the eyes don't match? Bad hands and disproportionate eyes are in your first drafts. You just might be too blind to see them.
But you have so much good material in all those pages. Yes, you do. But it's hidden amidst the nasty stuff, and if it's too close to the nasty, then you tend to reach over and snare some of that, too. Here's what I suggest you do.
1) Print off the pages.
2) Read the draft.
3) Write an outline of the story as you read.
3) Mark the very good, most excellent lines and save those pages.
4) Throw away the other pages. Do not ever read them again! It will be tempting to save them, but don't.
5) Open a new, blank page on your computer and start the new story.
There's nothing sacred about old material.
Why the above routine? This is why:
1) By having all these random pages with great lines on them, you'll save what you glean as diamonds, but won't just rewrite what you already did. You're forced to write the scene around those glistening sentences of brilliance. The funny part of this exercise is this . . . those wonderful sentences won't feel quite as perfect anymore, and chance are you'll rewrite them as well. That's a good thing. After all, you're growing as a writer.
2) My first and second drafts were in another setting, in third person. By discarding the old material, I pondered changing the setting, abolishing a few secondary characters, and changing to first person. Working amidst the old stuff, you might not be free enough of it to see the opportunity for really big change!
3) Note that no reference is made to the electronic file of the old draft. Delete it. I did. It kept me from going back to it, tempted to cut and paste sections on the days I was tired and less creative.
You want to be remembered for your polish, your published material, your best stories.
I know this makes your stomach hurt and your head throb. What a waste! No. It's a wonderful step for you. Most writers don't have the guts to do it! And that's what's going to move you a step above the fray. This is what will make you a much, much better writer. And this will teach you that you are an endless source of words. There's nothing sacred about old material. Nothing. You should be ever moving forward. Why leave a legacy of practiced product and half-assed results? After all, you want to be remembered for your polish, your published material, your best stories.