Rewrites: A Love/Hate Relationship

hemmingway_first_draft_mugI started my writing adventure about three years ago on a whim and an idea. See, I’d always had the creativity for the art, but never the discipline or time. And beyond the classroom, I’d never written anything, let alone anything of worth. So with the least experience possible, I began my first novel. I spent many hours parked in front of my old HP laptop, typing away with a stupid grin on my face as though I were telling of a great secret I couldn’t contain. But I didn’t know what good writing was back then. In fact, I wasn’t even an avid reader at the time. I loved stories, sure, but it was pretty rare that I’d actually pick up a book (an unfortunate trend amongst teenagers and twenty-somethings).

Chapter after chapter flew by and I shared each with only my best friend (who was essentially part of my creative process at the time), and my girlfriend/biggest fan. At least she better be! Anyway, I digress. Once finished with book one, and having done a very, very modest revisionary sweep, I took some time off to reflect. Much to my pleasant surprise, my mind refused to take a break from my story in the making and I soon found myself planning the sequel. Now I know I haven’t gotten into the whole “rewrite” topic I suppose you clicked on this post for, but I’m getting there. Trust me.

FrustrationI attacked book 2 much the same way I did with book 1, flying by the seat of my pants with a great concept and, at first, an outline that left much to be desired. The planning phase wasn’t a strength for me back then, I suppose; not in heavy detail anyway. I grew quite a bit as a writer throughout book 2, learning new tricks and ways to draw the reader into my web (insert evil laugh here. In fact, this one will do nicely). But, in spite of the steps forward I had taken, I still found my writing lacking in a number of areas. So I continued forth, a closet writer with the smallest of audiences as I began book 3. And then something just… clicked. I had started reading more, a lot more, in fact, than I ever had before. I was learning and shaping my own style by the genres and authors I was reading – shocking!

More than anything I was forced to reexamine my shortcomings on the revision end of things and start planning ways to improve. I finished book 3, but I was already so psyched to start book 4 that I ended up cutting corners in my book 1 rewrites. To make matters worse, I knew I had. So I tackled book 4, enjoying the best writing I’d ever sculpted and put book 1 on the back burner for a few more months. You see how this will come back to bite me, yes?

frustrated_writerAfter completion of book 4 I finally decided I was ready to move forward with the publishing process. I did weeks worth of research and typed up a list of potential agents I wanted to contact. But I couldn’t ignore a nagging thought in the back of mind. If I wasn’t happy with book 1, and how it related to the rest of the series, then how could I expect anyone else to? I applied more band-aid fixes here and there, shining up the proverbial pile dog turd and deluding myself into thinking they would see the whole picture as I saw it. They didn’t, of course. And why would they? I was an aspiring author with no background and was entirely unprepared and undisciplined even then, though I wouldn’t admit that at the time.

Still here? Awesome. Now we jump into the topic of this post. Though book 5 still calls out to me at all times of the night, I must ignore muh-lady’s call. For now, at least. I’ve changed my approach and rededicated myself to rewriting book 1. Patches? I don’t got time for no stinking patches! But I’ll be honest with you: I HATE rewrites. I HATE them with a passion. It’s so difficult, for me at least, to jump back into the mindset and emotion of those characters felt way back when. And essentially tossing away everything you’ve written for it previously is about as daunting as it gets. The biggest problem has been working around the plot deficiencies as they relate to the rest of the series. That was one the hardest truths I had to admit to myself. Sure it introduced the majority of my characters and my primary plot lines, but its overall plot felt like fan fiction – apart from my own timeline more or less. So I made adjustments, taking a raw piece of clay and sculpting it into the shape I needed to jam into the hole in the puzzle.

frustrationBut there is plenty of good to come from it. A little more than half way through my book 1 rewrite, I can see how far it’s come. There’s still work to be done, of course, and I’m sure once I get an editor he/she will rip my work to shreds and help me hammer out the diamond within the coal. Until then, however, I’ll just have to see the beauty of my work; appreciating it for what it is and from where it came. I knew full well this path wasn’t going to be easy but I took it anyway. Every day I’m growing as a writer and putting in the work. And even though I harbor this love/hate relationship with rewrites and revisions, I’ll continue to grow, to improve on my weaknesses and try not to break my keyboard while working on chapter 13… though I can’t promise anything on that last part.

What are your feelings on rewrites? Do you enjoy the tedious process or does it drive you as crazy as it does me? Leave your reply below in the comments section and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

 

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