Writing is rewriting is rewriting
Drafting is great, sure, but editing has always been my favorite part of the writing process…until recently. With my current project, I encountered my first ever need to *gasp* rewrite. Not write more. Write the same things again, but better. All my editing prior to this was essentially adding meat to the bones of the story. They were much easier editing jobs and much more enjoyable. Kind of like adding glitter.
I know I certainly did not rewrite as extensively as some friends of mine have. I didn’t open a new blank document and start from scratch (*passes along drinks to anyone brave enough to do that*) but I did have to reorganize, restructure, remove, replace and rewrite almost everything. That challenge coupled with the fact this story is extra emotional for me meant a one way ticket on the struggle bus.
As unpleasant as the experience has been, it’s certainly taught me a thing or two. If you’re ever in the position where you need to rewrite, keep this all in mind:
- Do what’s best for your story even if it makes you want to quit. Yes, it will be hard, and yes, it will make you throw child-like tantrums, but you don’t want to finish your book and think “nice, this is mediocre” you want to finish and think “this is the most beautiful piece of art I’ve ever created!”
- Keep an old version of the story. This is two-fold. On the one hand, you want to have a reminder of where you came from, but you also need a starting point in case the rewrite needs to be redone. (It’s okay, don’t freak out, this is just a precaution)
- Use post it’s or note-cards to keep track of changes. My reorganization got so confusing I had to write stuff down and shuffle it about to understand how the plot would fit together in a new way. These visual aids were integral to not losing my mind over the details.
- Take the time you think it’ll take and triple it. To be clear, rewrites take a long time. Such a long time you might look up from your desk and realize seasons have passed you by. If you have a certain time-table in mind, it’s probably best to give yourself a big cushion in case the editing takes longer than expected (it will).
- Doubt will become you. Despite knowing these edits would make my book even better than people had felt it was to start, I doubted my ability to do it justice. It’s such a totally different approach to the book that I kind of still doubt that my rewrite worked. *senses my CPs glaring at me* Okay, okay, it’s probably awesome
- Get new readers and old readers. Luckily, I have an excellent beta base and lovely writing friends who are always there to help. Definitely take the time to cultivate relationships so you can get readers new and old, too. The new readers come with a fresh perspective and the old reader can tell you how successful the changes were.
- Forget the old version. It’s best not to look back at what you did before. Keep the document, sure, but don’t fish around in it. If you clear your mind of what you wrote in the old version, your new version will likely be stronger.
- Kill your darlings. If characters don’t make sense anymore in your rewrite, get rid of them. The same goes for scenes, subplots, etc. Don’t overthink it like I do, just cut them out. Or if you want to be safe, create a cut document and stick all your removed junk in there.
- New angles and additions. On the flip-side of cutting out, be sure to stay open to creating new characters, subplots, or scenes. You are rewriting after all and those go hand in hand. Approach from different angles, maybe a new perspective, whatever works to give your story more sparkle.
- Never give up. Most important thing of all in any rewrite is to never, ever, ever give up. It might take a few months or even a year to get the new version to a place you’re comfortable with, but don’t give up on a story you’re passionate about. You never know, it might be the one.
So what’s the big take-away? Rewriting a story is exhausting. Even more so, it’s quite the overwhelming endeavor to undergo, but once you rework your idea into better shape, you’ll be glad you took the time and effort to put your best foot forward. For anyone thinking this might be them or realizing after reading this is them, *salutes* good luck!
Believe it or not, books hold an incredible power. They have the ability to change you. No, seriously. Over the years I’ve read stacks of books, but only a small group truly changed my life. And I don’t mean they simply meant a lot to me, I mean that my life would be entirely different had I not read them. I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s true. With that in mind, I decided it would be best to write about them and how my life changed from reading them. Maybe some of them changed your life, too!
Harry Potter – JK Rowling:
This book undoubtedly changed a lot of people’s lives. For me, it transformed an activity (reading) that I honestly detested into something treasured and magical. After reading this, I had to read more. And more! To the point where for a while in middle school, classmates actually called me Hermione. Moreover, it allowed me to believe that writing stories was something I could actually pursue. I no longer kept my ideas locked in my head, but rather began putting them on paper. It also introduced me to a community of fellow Potterheads that would in many ways reshape my life forever.
Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld:
High school was very confusing for me (as for many people) and finding this book was kind of a lifesaver although I didn’t recognize it at the time. Besides being set in my home state, which was very cool, Prep explored the common dramas of high school from someone who considered herself an outsider and helped me not to feel so alone. Beyond that, the main character was also very introspective about questioning her sexuality which woke me up a bit and offered a gentle nudge in the right direction that would in turn send me down a new path.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro:
If you haven’t read this book, you absolutely must. Prepare to cry. It’s such a thought provoking and interesting story that made me take a step back from the life I was living and reevaluate. Not in the sense of thinking college had put me on the wrong track, but rather that I needed to commit more to the one I was on. I needed to live more! It helped me appreciate the smaller victories in life, enjoy mundane activities, and find comfort in the fact that everyone is unique and important even if people don’t see that in themselves.
Far From You – Tess Sharpe:
I don’t think I can say enough good things about this book. The only drawback is that it took me 25 years to find a book that had me in it. Prior to reading this, I had never connected as much with a character and the story never meant so much to me as this. Despite our lives being very different, the layers of identity in this book felt like discovering myself on every page. Finally having a book that showcased who I am at my core really helped me embrace myself even further and pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the most authentic and happy stage of my life yet.
I think about how I was never looking for these books, that instead I came across them by accident and they unexpectedly changed my life. People often have this affect as well. Without knowing it, they turn your life inside-out and upside-down. With books, however, the outcome is usually more positive. So I can’t help but wonder what the next story on this list might be and how that book will change me for the better.
I wanted to discuss an array of LGBTQIA+ books for Pride Month but after recent events, I decided to focus on queer Latinx stories. In taking this specific focus I realize there needs to be SO many more of these books. Like whoa. While there are several others I know with Latinx main characters, the authors are not and I want to keep this post very specific.
I hope there are other stories out there I simply haven’t found or been exposed to yet and if you know of them, please leave a comment so I can check them out!
Dante and Aristotle
This is such a heartwarming story about friendships becoming something more through community and culture.
Juliet Takes a Breath
Funny, feminist, and fresh. Wonderful take on intersectionality from a wonderful character.
More Happy Than Not
Slight sci-fi bend on the coming out story that explores family and what it means to be QPOC.
When the Moon Was Ours
Although this magical realism romance isn’t out yet, I am counting down the days to get my hands on it so I had to include it here.
Again, please let me know of any others to add to this list and I hope you enjoy the suggestions above.
“Did you hear it?”
I burst through the door, looking for anyone who might be around to speculate with.
“Wait–you did, too?” my sister said, twisting to glance over the couch.
“What the hell was it?”
“It came on about five minutes ago, right? That’s when you heard it?”
“Yeah, I was in traffic and then the radio just cut out. I figured that old piece of shit grandma gave us had just seen it’s day but then the radio made this crackling noise. Was it on the radio here, too?”
“No, it came through the television.” Jumping onto the couch, I quickly eyed the TV before my sister said, “It hasn’t come back since.”
“Was there a video with it?”
“No. It was weird. Right in the middle of my movie the sound died but then…”
“Hold on. Where are mom and dad? Did they hear it?”
“My phone’s been blowing up. Everyone heard it. Even Uncle Lanny in Alaska! He texted asking if anything weird had happened in the last few minutes. I haven’t heard from mom or dad, though.”
The trembling in my core amplified. “Did you try to call?”
As my sister frantically dialed our parents, I surveyed the neighbors congregating across the street. They shouted at each other and pantomimed their excitement or concern. In a flash, I was back on my feet and out the door. “Did you hear it?” I called across the street.
“They think it went country wide,” our neighbor responded.
“Maybe the whole world,” said another.
“What did it mean?” I asked but they returned to chatting among themselves just as my parents’ Jeep pulled into the driveway.
“Did you hear it?” my sister asked from behind me.
Mom’s brow cranked upward. “Did we hear what?”
My sister and I couldn’t help but share a perplexed look. “Anything on the radio?”
“You heard it, too?” mom said.
“That thing we heard on the phone?” dad added.
They didn’t seem to notice the chatter going on across the street and casually walked to our door like the world wasn’t in a panic around them. “Everyone heard it,” my sister said.
“It came through on your phone?”
“I heard it in the car and she heard it on the TV,” I said.
“Strange,” he said to himself. “Let’s go inside.”
I held my ground and said, “What did it mean?”
A wrinkle appeared between mom’s eyes and she let a tense breath escape. “Nothing good.”