Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lovely Task of Rewriting

"Real writing is rewriting."

You'll read it on blogs. You'll hear it on podcasts.

Rewriting is one of those things that separates the hopefuls and wannabes from the diehards and professionals. No first draft is perfect, let alone profitable for a publisher or enjoyable to a reader. Every writer must be willing to make changes, and sometimes they are substantial. My own experience is limited, but I've had to scrap a few short stories and start over because I realized something I was doing that was hindering the project (it usually involved writing from the wrong character's POV).

Writing is hard, and some people can't stand the idea of going back to a project they finished six months ago. They want to move on to the next new idea burning in their brain. That's great, to have more ideas coming, but statistically, these writers won't sell because they aren't polishing their work.

I'm glad to say I'm not one of them.

Now that I've finished writing the first draft of "The Sparrow's Fall," I've turned my attention back to a previous novel: "The Lightwich Expedition."

I've posted about this book before, completed in April 2014. Right now, it's in its second/third draft. I shopped it around to who-knows-how-many agents and nobody bit. No one even requested a partial manuscript beyond the chapters I sent them. Rejections don't bother me, but sometimes you have to wonder, "Is it me or them?" I decided that I needed another pair of eyes on the manuscript.

I was still in school and it took a long time to find a competent beta reader that would give me a detailed analysis. I did a fair bit of writing between finishing the draft and realizing I wanted to go further (got my break with "Nimrod Lexicon"), and I'm glad I finally have the chance and the inner drive to make this happen. I've only done a major rewrite on a novel once before (the ill-fated Lunar Dawn, which I rewrote from scratch), and my biggest fear was that I'd be tired of the story with no desire left to make changes.

But I think Lightwitch has real market potential. It was a blast to write it and I know it can be improved.

The challenges I'm facing are thus:

1. Inserting a New Character

One of the biggest faults with the manuscript is that it was supposed to be a YA novel, but one of the POV characters is an grown woman, and she's only there for about 4000 words in a 65000 manuscript. Not only that, but these 4000 words are boring, and that won't do at all. The new character won't be an adult, and I'll have to write those 4000 words all over again. In fact, I'll have to go way beyond that because this new character needs a complete life of their own, and that means creating new supporting characters as well.

The new character's chapters will then be interwoven with the others. One of the things that gives me hope is the fact I still have a complete manuscript, even without the 4000 words (that's assuming I would want to sell it as a YA historical fiction). I don't have to throw out the whole thing and start over. The 61000 words I have left can be a guide.

2. Improving my Medical Knowledge 

I don't want to spoil anything here...but most of the story revolves around a comatose boy, so I need to accurately portray a modern hospital and patient care. This means talking to people, because there are some things Google can't find.

3. Tweaking the Characters' Physical Movements

I thought I could keep everything in my head, but it didn't work. I was always second-guessing myself. I need a sketch of towns, buildings, etc just so the characters' movements will make sense.

4. Daily Routines are Complicated

I've discovered these wonderful little things called note cards. They're great for remembering certain details that you have to have in the story, but don't want to save to a computer file (the opening of which might tempt you to access the internet). These cards are most handy for remembering a character's daily routines. Don't know about you, but I can't remember my high school schedule, or my chores, etc.

5. Polishing the Rest

The 61000 words I mentioned at the top will have to be polished. Better characterization. Better action. However, there is only one section that I will have to be completely rewritten and that's acting on the advice of every beta reader who said it slowed the pacing of the story, thereby, making it difficult for them to engage.

I haven't set a deadline for this to be finished. Ideally, before the year ends, but I doubt it'll take that long. It's hard to explain, but I'm more relaxed about this project that I was about "Sparrow's Fall." I have a much moe concrete idea of what I want to do than plodding along a behemoth of a manuscript day after day with no end in sight.

Can't wait to see the results. It won't be easy, but that's why you have to be passionate. Only a true love of what you do will carry you over the unpleasant bumps.

Power to the pen!

1 comment:

  1. Amen! As Stephen King says in his great book "On Writing," a writer will find the time to write - and rewrite - regardless of life's circumstances. It looks to me that you have the mettle. Write on!