The Joy of Rewrites

It should come as no surprise to any of you that my approach to writing is rather emotional (I approach the rest of life rather emotionally as well, not just writing but that’s an entirely different story).
So when something is wrong with a story, EVERYTHING else is wrong too. The kids are a nuisance, the husband is a git, the house is a tip. Life itself becomes one giant pain.
But, on the other side of the coin, when the story is going right, EVERYTHING else is just fabulous. The kids are well behaved, the husband is a doll, the house is spotless. Nothing is a problem.

Anyway, as you can imagine from my last couple of posts, I have encompassed the full emotional spectrum due to my wretched stories and I’m sure my family would now like to lock me away if only for a bit of peace and quiet.

However, I’m sure they’ll be relieved to know that – for the moment – I’m okay. Because I’ve just spent the entire weekend rewriting the beginning of the story that gave me such a wonderful ‘aha’ moment about the heroine. I knew it needed to be done because although the beginning I had was okay – my CPs liked it – I still felt funny about it. Couldn’t put my finger on why. Couldn’t really even articulate the specific problem. Perhaps there was too much setup. Too much going  on. Too busy. Whatever it was, I just had a funny feeling about it (cue the ‘I hate the rest of my life too’ moans).

Now, when it comes to rewriting, there are two schools of thought (or possibly more but I can’t think of any others right now). You either don’t need to rewrite as much as you think. Or you should rewrite entirely. Although the former can be very attractive after you’ve spent months crafting the perfect ms, the latter, for me at least, can be exactly what you need.

Maisey Yates gave me the best advice – rewriting entirely can help you break out of the cage you’ve written yourself into. It’s hard but it feels like you’re starting over and that can give you a lot of freedom. It was certainly the best thing for this particular ms. I rewrote chapters 2 and 3 completely. Different things happened.  They didn’t go out, they stayed in. The kiss I had happening at the end of chapter 3 didn’t occur. It was like writing a whole new reality for them. But the best thing was allowing myself the freedom to let the characters be who they were, not me trying to impose what I thought they should do on them (which, I figure, was the problem with the original iteration) or what was good for the plot I had planned.

Anyway, the sum total of this is that now, having rewritten, I no longer have that funny feeling about the beginning. It’s not perfect and it may not be at all what the editors want. But it feels more true to the characters than the earlier one. In fact, it’s a beginning I’m not sure I could rewrite again since what I’ve already got is IT.

In Chez Ashenden, all is now right with the world. At least until I run into the next story problem. 🙂

So, when you run into a writing problem, what do you do? Pull your hair? Scream at the kids? Throw the computer through the window? Or rewrite?

9 thoughts on “The Joy of Rewrites”

  1. Yes to all!!

    A few days ago my husband told me that I cycle from manic to depressive and back again in 30 minute intervals. I laughed hysterically, cuz he’s right.

    It’s good! It’s bad! It might be salvageable. I’m SCREWED! Oh, now I really like it.

    I think I need a mood stabilizer 🙂

  2. When I first saw this post in my blogroll, I thought your title was sarcastic, but I’m so glad it wasn’t. A good rewrite can do wonders, and it certainly can pull the characters out of the corners we write them into. I’m forever impressed at the way your share your emotional journey with the rest of us. When I have a bad day writing, I avoid the internet and sulk until my boyfriend volunteers to read what I’ve written so far (regardless of how many times he’s already read it) to help me find a solution. Usually I don’t like his suggestions and in an attempt to challenge them, I come up with a solution I’m happy with. I suspect that’s why he does it 🙂

    Is the story in question the one you entered in NV?

  3. Aimee – Ummm…possibly we could be twins. 🙂 Certainly my husband and your husband could have something in common – manic depressive writer wives! Lol!
    BTW, when you find that mood stabilizer, can I have some??

    Madeline – Oh, I avoid the internet too. The posts you see are the ones I write when I’m on my UP again. When I’m REALLY unhappy I turn off my PC and go on a major sulk somewhere else.
    Yes, well, the hubby used to help with the plot problems but since I’m such a bad-tempered so and so he’s given up. Luckily I discovered Skype and can now bore Maisey to tears with it instead.
    As to the story, no it’s not. It’s one I won a contest with a couple of months ago.

  4. You know how I feel about rewriting today!! But you know, I’m sure you’re right. I probably should have scrapped my entire ending and rewritten, instead of just tweaking it as I’ve done today 🙁

  5. Yeah, I’m a pretty awful person to be around when the writing’s not going as well as it could. I sympathise. Good for you allowing yourself to rewrite the beginning – I get really possessive over what I’ve written sometimes and it’s a real wrench to let it go. I have to remind myself that I could, maybe, use some of the usurped material in another story.

    Good luck finishing the story.

    x Kristy x

  6. Mostly my family just nods and lets me rant or rave as needed.

    In all seriousness, it really was liberating to learn how much easier it is sometimes to rewrite and start fresh.

  7. Kristy – hey! Yes, I have document for each story where I put all the bits I’ve cut. Can be really useful. So you never actually get rid of it.

    Julia – it IS liberating isn’t it? I think the best part is knowing the characters way better the second time around.

  8. I’ve rewritten one book nine times. It now has a different hero, a different heroine, a different storyline…so I’m left wondering, is it still the same book?

    It’s hard knowing when to let go once the rewriting bug strikes.


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