Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When It's Time to Rewrite your Novel....Again

I decided to take a short break from the "What is..." series. If you have suggestions (the brief hiatus from it may or may not be due to a lack of ideas), please leave them in the comments or use the new handy-dandy contact form in the left-hand column.

From here.
For the first time in a while, I've remembered that writing, like life, isn't easy. It might seem easy to sit down and write a good novel when the letters are flying and I know what my characters are going to do...but those moments don't last long.

I've been editing a novel for a good chunk of the summer and into the fall (It's the second book in my Christian dystopian series that I've been working on over the course of a few years). This wasn't the first time I've edited it.

The whole summer, I thought to myself that it was going well. That writing was easy. That I could just put in a bit of effort and it would fix itself. I chalked off the nagging feeling that something wasn't right to my inner editor not being given her allotted amount of chocolate for working overtime.

I edited it once and wasn't happy with it. I took some time off, re-read it, and decided that it still needed just a bit of something. I edited it again.

Perhaps I wasn't happy with it, but my inner editor was exhausted. Three months of work and she hadn't been given extra coffee, better chocolate, or vacation time. And I didn't want to look at it again. I'd edited it three times. Shouldn't that be enough? How many red pens had to spill their life's blood for the sake of one novel? Surely it'd be fine.

I sent it off to my wonderful critique partner, Victoria, who gently told me what I didn't want to hear.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

She put the words to the nagging feeling that had plagued me all summer. Words that I wanted to throw away, but couldn't deny their truth.

The feeling that I couldn't get the pacing right? She nailed it on the head--no climax and my characters acting like a handful of houseplants (my words, not hers). The feeling that I couldn't figure out where my characters were going? It helps when your characters have goals.

She saw what I didn't want to see and didn't shy away from telling me about it. (And I wouldn't have it any other way, either. Critiques are only useful if they're honest and constructive. And she was super nice about it).

I don't know if this is what Hemingway meant about sitting at a typewriter bleeding, but I feel like it could be. I left my life's blood on the page and more is required. Elbow grease is expensive to buy, but sometimes it's the only thing that works when you have a broken manuscript.

So it might be back to the drawing board. I'm debating investing in a larger white board  to draw stuff out. I've already got three colors of neon sticky notes in my drawer that have been slotted for enlistment into the editing armada.

I'll need some time to get away from the story a bit. My poor, whimpering inner editor has earned that, at the very least. So for now, I'm plotting something different for NaNo.

But come December 1st (or Christmas break, depending on scheduling), it'll be time to roll up the sleeves again. My inner editor will have had a couple months of much-needed chocolate and coffee vacation time in her office (I think the only time she leaves is to buy more red pens).

It'll be back to the drawing board. Back to the blood-covered typewriter. Back to writing a story I love and making sure it gets told the way it deserves.

Until then, it's time for a fresh story and some more blogging.

(Also, you should check out Victoria's blog, because she's also an awesome blogger).


  1. I'm so glad you're going ahead and going to make it shine. The story certainly deserves it. (And I think you deserve a break and some fresh characters and stories, too.)

    I'm also really glad you're taking my critique well. I was well aware that you had probably poured many, many hours of editing into it already and so I felt like the meanest person on earth telling you to rewrite it. (I've been on the receiving end of that one before. I know with "The Creature of the Night" that I sent you and Heather draft 6 (?) and I had to majorly re-edit it so that it's now sitting on draft 9ish. I feel your pain.)

    I think the important thing is that you realise your story is awesome but you just have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for your last pay check to buy some more elbow grease. And the thing is that writing is like a massive rollercoaster. You may be near the bottom somewhere but there's always that hill to climb just around the corner.

    (As a tip for tackling the editing monster, may I suggest your own Wall of Utter Procrastination? I was super stuck on edits for "Zoe + Death, BFFs" because I couldn't get into Death's head or figure out what the theme was. I wrote down the major points of my story (arcs, goals, basic plot lines, etc.) and stuck them all up on my wall. (This was at like 11pm. My brain seems to work better late at night for some weird reason.) I'm a visual learner, so I wrote this stuff down, stared at it for a while and the puzzle pieces all fit together. (Sacrifice! Metaphorical masks! How did I not see this before?) Anyways, I stick all my stuff up on my wall now for organization, clarity and inspiration. It's like a physical Pintrest board. It's great for timelines, too.)

    To wrap up this extremely long comment, I hope you know that you have a really cool story going on, but you not *quite* there yet. It'll come.

    1. Thanks :)

      I might take you up on the wall of Utter Procrastination. Unfortunately, wall space is at a premium in dorm rooms, but I'll work something out.

      Sometimes I really wish that there was a set number of edits that magically made your novel "good". Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

      And studies have shown that creative parts of the brain actually work better at night, so that might be a contributing factor.

      Thanks for the comment and the great critique!


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