What? A writing post? On this blog?? How long has it been?!
Yeah. I’m sorry, guys. Like I said in my last post, I’m gonna do my darndest about the whole updating thing, and hopefully those updates will begin to talk about writing every now and again. Maybe.
Let’s start with this: what does one do if you’re motoring along on a project when you realise, either because you’ve hit an impassable block or because someone else read your work and told you it was terrible (which I will someday make a whole other post about, but not now), that you need to trash the entire thing and start over. You need to rewrite the whole, entire project, or at least a big chunk of it (a subplot, a point of view, something) from scratch. And let me tell you, if you’ve gotten most or all of the way through before this happens, it can be an absolutely, completely, and entirely miserable thing to realise. And I, personally, like to minimise the misery present in my life. As such, all of these strategies will be focused on making your job with this rewrite easier.
So, first things first, you need to ask yourself: do I actually need to rewrite? Or can this be fixed through a few strategic cuts or scene changes? And, if I do need to rewrite, how much do I actually need to drop and redo? I can tell you horror stories about deleting an entire 40-50 thousand words, starting completely over, and then realising that I only needed to rewrite a subplot or a few chapters. Do not make that mistake, friends. Minimise the effort.
Sometimes, though, the effort cannot be minimised. Sometimes it happens that a literal, entire book needs to be completely redone to have any hope of happening. It has happened and will happen again to all of us, and it is never a fun experience, especially on a deadline. (My favourite ever NaNo was the one where I realised on the 15th that my book needed a plot. Plots are, y’know, important. I guess.) What do you do when there is no saving the draft you have?
Step one is to consider what it is you need. Really, really think about it. Consider what isn’t working, and what you need to do to fix it, and take as long as you need to get through this step. Do you need a new conflict? A changed main character? A significant cut or addition to the cast? A different villain? A brand-new world? A completely different book in its entirety, with new characters, story, and world?
If it’s the last one, you’re not rewriting. You’re trunking an old book and starting a new one. Which is okay! Don’t feel bad about doing that. Sometimes something just doesn’t work. Not every one of our brain-children can be Athena. Some of them have to just be broken-up brain-bits. You shouldn’t kick yourself too hard about it. You should stop reading this post and go find some advice about writing a brand-new story. Go, hop to it!
If it’s one of the others, your job is a little more complicated, and my advice to you becomes kinda limited. Figure out what you need to change. Figure out how to change it. And then… go. Write. Only you can fix this story, and so you just need to get it done.
There is one more thing to consider, though. Writing, tough and painful as it can be, is also incredibly fun. (If it’s not for you, that’s fine, but you may need to reconsider whatever it was that got you here.) And what you’re doing in rewriting a book is spending more time with characters you’ve already made and likely already love, in a world you’ve already developed, writing out a plot you already know. You spend more time with people and places and stories that you’ve already had the time to fall in love with, and you get to make it all so, so much better. There’s a lot of fun to be found in that, once you get going. My favourite book that I ever worked on was one I rewrote literally three times. Enjoy it.
This post got a little sappy towards the end there, sorry. But I hope it’s helpful anyways. The overall point is– figure out exactly what needs fixing, try to limit the work you need to do, and have fun playing in a sandbox you’ve already built. Now, go forth, fix your book, and whatever you do, just keep writing.