Monday, January 6, 2014

Derailing a Rewrite

After a crazy second half of 2013, I picked up my first book to continue with rewrites. I had a mostly-clear idea of what needed to change and why, and had already made a start on about 20 pages in a new opening. What's more, I was loving the new opening, and the freedoms that came with my main character's change in circumstances--turns out, moving down in Victorian society completely transformed her expectations. And my own!

So I was chugging happily along with my rewrites, and had nearly reached the point where these pages would mesh up with a section of text from the original version.

But then, it didn't.

I'd gone in a completely different direction, and now trying to get the two versions to meet was like trying to join the two sections of a transcontinental railroad and discovering they're different gauges of track. So I tried a different transitional scene, one that logic told me would lead to where I wanted it to.

No go--wrote myself right into a dead end. Time to step back and take stock of the-pages-that-be, as opposed to the-pages-that-were.

My plan is to do a completely new outline from scratch--without looking at the detailed one for the previous version. If a scene or plot point genuinely belongs, it'll come back to me. Hopefully.

And perhaps this strategy will let me see this version of the story more objectively, and let it develop its own voice organically. I've resigned myself that it may mean a complete and total rewrite, for the betterment of the book.

And that's the ultimate goal, isn't it? To keep growing and learning as a writer, to craft better books? (Yeah, ask me again in a month or so, when I'm kicking myself for doing things the hard way, hee hee.)

But I want to hear from you--have you ever ditched an entire manuscript to start over and survived to tell the tale?


  1. Yes, I'm doing it now with what I'm working on. I have the old file beside the new one but never look at the old. I work from memory, bending, twisting, re-discovering the gem of the story.

  2. Oh, yes. It's a hard pill to swallow. After my last SCBWI conference, I realized that if I pick my last manuscript back up to rewrite, I'll have to start over from scratch. But I understand that it will only be to make things better.

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  4. I had one manuscript that I completely ditched but I didn't write the story again. However, I have done a major rewrite that sent my story into a very different direction than I originally thought. Turned out to be a good thing since it added more tension. Good luck as you pursue the unity of the two versions of your story. You'll find that connection and find yourself chugging along again.

  5. I ditched my first one. To start over with a new MS. It was so hard. But, it just didn't know what it wanted to do. It was confused! I still want to some day go back to it, but who knows when! (I can't tell you how liberating it was to send that thing through the shredder though!)

  6. Glad to hear I'm not alone (notice I didn't say "not crazy", because--writers!). It may not be a complete do-over, but I have a feeling it's going to be close. So far, at least her name and the book title are the same, lol!

  7. So far I've done this two times. With the same book. Most recently three weeks ago. I've got the same idea, same names and title, different angle and plot.
    To keep myself from going crazy, I'm going to do a extensive outline with each scene and figure out if this book is truly the one I want to write. Hope to save myself 6 months work this way. But we'll see.
    Glad to know I'm not alone, too. :-)

  8. I don't know if I've survived yet but I'm rewriting my YA historical as a romance. Same main characters, some of the same scenes, but my MC is older and I've added a lot of new threads.


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