Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: When a Novel Needs a Complete Rewrite - Author Life

Hey everyone.

So I've been reading up some blogs lately, mainly on writing craft. Doing that has two effects on me as a writer. One, I grow in my skills and learn how to apply amazing things to my writing. Two, I realize how much my current writing sucks.

It's like I'm in a Facebook relationship with craft and we fall under the "it's complicated" category.

So I thought I'd share one of my old experiences with my current WIP. The feelings that come when you realize a novel needs a complete rewrite. I felt those feelings just last year.

And it's complicated.

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Novel writing is a very very difficult task. Anyone who says it's easy either has a miraculous gift, or they haven't hit the hard parts yet... or they're far too full of themselves.

I always get frustrated with people when I tell them I'm writing a novel. They'll say, "Oh yeah, I want to write a novel too, someday when I have more time."

Hate to say it, but nine times out of ten, that means never. If you don't make time for a novel, time isn't going to make room for you to start one. Novel writing takes dedication.

Which makes things even harder when you have to make difficult decisions.

One of the things I was taught as an early writer was "you have to be willing to kill your babies." That means you have to be willing to change around your novel. You have to be willing to destroy favorite characters or scenes or dialogue. You have to be willing to change names and eliminate chapters. You have to be willing to destroy everything you have worked so hard for in exchange for what MIGHT be something better. That's right. It MIGHT be. You'll never really know if your change is better until you make it. That takes extraordinary faith and dedication.

And that faith and dedication is the exact thing I faced recently when I came to the conclusion that my manuscript needed a rewrite from scratch.

Let me put some things in perspective for you.

I've been working on the world of Zyearth for almost twelve years. I created the first character in 2002 and the first novel (originally called The Island) in 2004 with a friend of mine online. I rewrote the novel in 2010 (Naming it The Stolen Guardian) during my first NaNoWriMo and worked on it until the first draft was completely in the summer of 2011. I spent the next two years building draft after draft until I had what I thought was a draft that was a perfect as it could get - draft number ten. The final title was The Stolen Defender.

Then I sent it to my editing partner.

She agreed that the novel was much better than my first draft, but the comments she made about how slow things were and how forced some things felt made me think (well, first it made me mad, then it made me upset, and THEN it made me think, but who's counting?).

I realized I was tackling the whole thing wrong. I was paralyzed by the old drafts, making sure I got all the previous details and dialogue and scenes that I didn't want to let go of. That's where the problem lay.

The novel didn't need editing. It needed a rewrite.

So I spent the next month reoutlining the whole thing from scratch. That was the biggest baby I have ever had to kill.

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That was the hardest decision I have ever made as a writer. I LITERALLY threw away an old novel in favor of a new one. Twelve years of work tossed aside.

And now I have that new draft. I have that brand new novel.

The only question is, is it the right novel? I guess that's what editors are for. =D

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