Rewards of Rewriting a Novel

Originally posted on my professional site as a progress post, but also I want it on this blog.

After many seasons (nature ones and NaNoWriMo ones), I finally completed a start-to-end rewrite of my fantasy novel, Peregrination. We had many disagreements: I wanted to work on something new, but it wanted me to finalize what happens before I return to writing the sequel; I wanted to take the plot in one direction, but it wanted to go in a dozen and see what happens; I wanted concise themes, but it wanted to dabble only a little but in everything. After several metaphorical fist fights and limb-tugging, we reached a compromise.

I don’t know what that compromise is, but we’re there. After I frolic with short stories and essays for this year’s National Novel Writing Month—a change of pace—I will return to the beginning for revision. Somewhere during that journey I’ll find out the hows and whens of our give-and-take.

But let’s not speculating about my revision process.

During the rewriting journey I scribbled many mental notes:

  1. Rewriting is as exciting as writing!
    • When I write my mind roams free and that energy is invigorating. However, it results in a horrid novel. Somehow the words don’t read the way they wrote. Rewriting forces me to re-imagine everything. I think only 25% of the current edition has the original draft. That’s 75% of new, strategic writing. Strategizing is as fun as riding a haphazard stream of ideas.
  2. Characters develop roles instead of just creatures of action and dialogue.
    • When fresh ideas come to the paper (I write longhand) characters have names, eye colors, weapons of choice, and a backstory. Yet somehow they didn’t have literary value. They weren’t complete. When you rewrite a novel you’re giving yourself a chance to define them as them, and not as a part in your imaginary scheme.
  3. The plot needs to be more than a sequence of events that somehow “out do” the previous step.
    • I love world building and creating characters, but I get lazy when it comes to plot. Mostly the first half is neat action events and in the second half I have to figure out how to relate them to each other. Now my plot depends explicitly on my setting and cast, physically and spiritually, and in a specific order. It can’t occur anywhere else.
  4. It’s okay to downgrade your main character.
    • Ratana, my protagonist, used to be an upstart Xena Warrior Princess. But I wanted her to be more novice. It’s like starting a role playing game: you have low stats and slowly level up. This allows me to see the world as a much scarier but exciting place because I see it as a young woman who lacks the confidence and the skills to stay safe.
  5. The more time you have between writing the first draft and your rewrite, the more of the story’s overall concept you have to change.
    • I wrote the first draft in my senior year of high school and my rewrite a year after graduating college. My writing style changed and my world view refused to let me see the story the way I did before. Other than keeping a few scenes that still fit into the new story, Peregrination was just that: a new story. The characters and setting is the same, but themes and the angle I approach those themes are different.

I wonder what kind of a journey revision will warrant?

Trivia: the feature image for this post is a quick, late night photo of my last writing page–my new last page–which my cat conveniently climbed upon in time for the slow iPhone shutter to capture her. She then stared at me…for whatever reason.

Last Page

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