The story so far: The Last Free City was designed as the story of Todarko, a selfish youth, set against a background of political intrigue in a proud but corrupt city. Sixty thousand words in, I came to the conclusion that the protagonist's story wasn't strong enough to carry a whole novel, and I cast about for more narrative strands to support it.
Two possibilities presented themselves to me: a story set twenty years before, showing the formative years of Dravadan, the antagonist in Todarko's story; and a narrative from the viewpoint of Oricien, a survivor from The Dog of the North. For a number of reasons, Oricien's story seemed the more promising and I set to work on it. Some 5,000 words later I put aside both optimism and the narrative: Oricien's story did not work. Instead I moved on to telling Dravadan's story--which has now reached about 30,000 words. It is not brillliant, but it is probably salvageable.
Last night I was pruning some back-ups from a little-used computer, and I came across the three episodes which made up the Oricien part of the story. Idly I re-read them. To my astonishment, they were the start of the greatest prose narrative ever written in English! Such euphoria rapidly abated, but even a sober second reading supported the conclusion that it was much better than I remembered: two nicely delineated characters, crisp conflict, some touches of humour. All in all, it's much better than most of the material which has survived.
What are the lessons of this homily? First, don't throw anything away; second, and more important--it's very hard to evaluate work while you're in the middle of writing. Put it away for a couple of months, come back to it, and it may have hidden virtues.
I will be picking up this third strand again once I have finished Dravadan's story...