02 March 2013

Rewriting is Hard Work (or When is it Time to Let Go?)

Almost one year after completing my novel's first draft, I'm still working on my second draft. At this point it's a little bit like facing down into an abyss and wondering if you want to continue forward and pull back.

The weird thing though is that I am facing the same problem that held me back from completing my first draft. That is - resisting the urge to rewrite as I go along. I know I am in the rewriting stage but I have also a handwritten first draft and some of these chapters were from a long time ago. I can say for sure that I've grown since then as a writer. Now, I resist the urge to completely rewrite everything, leaving nothing of the original draft.

Now, like so many years before, I wonder - do I want to continue forward or do I want to pursue something new?

Here's what stops me -

I was on a forum somewhere and browsing a question very similar to the one I'm asking now. Someone's response has stayed with me and has kept me going on the nights where I have to discipline myself to go back to this story. They said - if all you are writing is first drafts, you are only writing on that one level. Rewriting is when the work starts.

I may paraphrased a little bit, but that comment stayed with me.

This fantasy novel has been a burden I've taken on with me into adulthood. It's no longer the story I wrote as a teenager. It's now the story I'm writing as an adult. And it's work.

But do I toss it away into a drawer now because it's getting challenging? If I do that, am I moving on or will I dust it off in an unpublished future hoping that I may finally get it one day?

I have learned something from completing my first draft - keep chugging forward and quit fixing the broken trail until you've reached the other side. I will do my best to apply that lesson now. My goal? Get the damn thing typed up.

I'm just hoping that one year from now, I am not still asking this same question during my third draft.

Do you struggle with rewriting? Have you ever let go of a story? Did it feel right to you or does it plague you to this day?

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  1. I'm sure in one year you will not be asking quite the same questions. This is the rewrite stage, no getting around it, and the whole book may be rewritten! If you started this when you were much younger, I would think your gained perspective on life would have a lot more (or less?) to say.
    Keep keeping on. I envy you for tackling this.

    1. Thank you Barbara! This is a struggle but I think if I keep at it and keep going I would feel so much better about myself in the long run.

  2. I found revision endless and wearisome. The main problem was by the time I had revised half the manuscript I had forgotten little references that were significant later in the story. Eventually I identified the manuscript could be chopped into four sections. I then rewrote them as such, starting with the last one.

    It worked for me but I'm not sure it would help others. It certainly gave me a new perspective and those subtle references were easy to position. It was a case of knowing when to let go as well. I felt I could spend the rest of my life perfecting the text, always able to see flaws. Then other stories would be lost. In twenty years I might look back in horror at some shoddy writing but at least it will have been in print twenty years and not still under revision.

    Trust your instinct and follow your heart. In life I try not to let my heart rule my head but in writing it is a necessity.

    1. You are right about those slight references. I am remembering them even now as I go along and think about why something is and then realize - oh, wait. I figured that our in chapter 2 already. And yes, we must follow our heart in writing. That's the only way!

  3. At least you have a complete draft, Nicole. I'm still on chapter nine and struggle to find time to write. I love to rewrite, but I'm not to that point yet.

    I think when you reread the manuscript with your now more mature eyes, you will be able to "mold" and "coddle" what you have and turn it into a more refined product.

    Just don't be afraid to cut what you don't need. I think that's going to be the hardest thing for me to do, because it was such inspiration to write every word that's there. You will feel like you've wasted valuable time when you start cutting, but you just have to tell yourself that it's not wasted time, you've actually learned something from the entire process.

    Good luck, girl! I'm wishing you the best.

    1. Thanks Diane! It's the cutting part I'm worried about - I'm worried about how much more work I'm adding for myself. I already worry about low word count for the book overall, but I know I shouldn't worry too much about that part.

      Good luck to your manuscript!! I know you can do it too, just one day at a time!

  4. You wrote your first draft in long hand? Wow I haven't done that in decades. Don't worry about word count honey, just get the thing done as in revision. Why would you want to rewrite it? Just as you did the rough draft keep plugging away at the 2nd draft.

  5. I enjoy re-writing. I do it during and after I write my manuscript.
    I have let go of a story. I don't look at that writing as a waste. It exercised my muse and sharpened my craft.
    No writing is wasted, someone once told me. It's so true. And I hold on to it.
    Good luck with your writing. And have fun.

  6. From experience, let it a sit for two weeks.Find a critique group and/or 3 to 5 beta-readers. Then begin your rewrites. While you're working on them, begin a new project.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  7. When I was writing for television, for a long time I did my first draft on yellow legal pads, but you really can't rewrite that way. You have to put it through the computer, double-spaced, perfect form as if this was the final draft you were going to send off to a publisher. And don't forget a title page with your goal date for completion. There's something about looking at a real title page when you start work every day that tells your brain the project is already whole and complete and now all you have to do is put it down on paper. It's kind of a metaphysical trick, but it has always worked for me, and I had real deadlines I had to meet. Once you get it on paper, it might be helpful to have someone knowledgeable and objective read it for you and give you some notes, even if that means hiring a professional. You've invested a lot in this book, Nicole, and it sounds to me like you'd always doubt yourself if you gave up now. Keep at it. I forget who said, "If writing was easy anyone could do it," but it's true.

  8. Hi, Nicole. I think a book is rarely perfect and ultimately needs to be "let out of the nest" at some point. Just as you hinted at, a book is also reflective of the period of time that it was written in. See it finished and trust that it'll be ready to fly into the hands of readers everywhere. Be encouraged, my friend.


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