Saturday, May 21, 2016

Editing And Rewriting Your Novel

My posts are all over the place. :P I say I'm going to post and then I don't do it, and whatever I post about is completely different than anyone (including me) was expecting.

But my posts will be very scarce this summer because I'm rewriting my novel! And I'm only on Chapter 3, out of who-knows-how-many. So as a result, I won't be able to post as often as I'd like, and I have to put my Plotless challenge on hold for myself until I'm done. Oh well. More details below, I think.

I'm starting to worry all of my intros are going to be an excuse for not posting. Sorry about that. But on the bright side, I have a new post!

Short answer: It depends on the author and the book.

Long answer: Last summer, I decided I wanted to participate in a fairy tale rewrite contest. It was for short stories and novellas, and I kept telling myself I'd enter the contest. I wrote the entire thing in November for NaNoWriMo, after putting it off for months. I used the Young Writer's Program, and it ended up being around the 20,000 word limit. It was the first book I'd ever finished (yay for me), and I was all set to enter the contest.

But was I happy with it? No. Of course not. It was a NaNoWriMo and a first draft. It had flaws. All books do. And I had one month to finish editing the thing and send it in. Seems daunting, right?

So I printed out the manuscript, grabbed my red colored pencil, and began to critique the same way I had learned at the Summer Workshop, but on a bigger scale. Line by line, circling sections, crossing out what needed to be taken out or rewritten, yelling at the characters, scribbling over the pages. I took that stack everywhere, and I felt like a professional author. I was editing. I had a deadline. I got through the entire critiquing process in two or three weeks.

I had pretty much no time, and I had to finish it. All of it. Make it perfect. I had all my notes. But were they enough? Could I edit an entire book in that short amount of time?

No. No I couldn't.

But I did get done the top priority scenes. I added a showdown. I gave the MC a dog. I reworded it. I finished it two hours before my deadline and sent it in.

My edit wasn't perfect. It was almost as bad as the first draft. I was tired of the book, and I had a deadline, and it was only the beginning of the edits I could have implemented. But I put the book aside and began a new one for a co-op I was part of.

(If you're curious, I lost the contest. I am not a published author. But it was a wonderful experience and I recommend it.)

(Also, I did that entire book without critiques from anyone but myself. I wasn't proud of it. I didn't even let my parents read it for a long while.)

So I started another book. This one I did post for feedback. I got quite a few readers, and critiques, and I liked the first draft.

I got through sixteen chapters before I realized what I was doing to myself. I wanted to enter it into the OYAN contest, but I didn't like it some core pieces of it. So I scrapped the entire thing. Before it was complete.

Same story, same characters, but I scrapped it. I started to completely rewrite it. At the beginning of this month. I'm on Chapter Three. Terrible idea, wouldn't recommend it. Especially with the story you're bringing to the OYAN Summer Workshop for critique group. But you know what? It's what the story needed. I've completely changed the setting. I have chapters where the same thing happens, but the scenes are entirely different. I have to get this done for the contest. So I'm working on getting as much done before SW and then bringing what I have. Then I plan to enter it into the contest this year, and then possibly again next.

Critiques are important. They are very good things because they can help you figure out what to change. Maybe there's stuff in them you disagree with, but I might not be rewriting this thing if it weren't for my reader's advice.

Lots of people recommend taking a break and stepping back. Though I've never done it, I think it's a great idea! If you have time. If not, just plug through, use what you have, and write. Because guess what? Editing is writing too.

This will not work for you. I guarantee it. Maybe a similar thing will. Maybe you'll go, "Hey! I should completely rewrite my novel!" and it will be wonderful. But my exact process is not your process. It's mine, and it depends on the story and my time limit, and all those things. You'll learn your editing process as you try it. Get advice. Advice is good. Without it, you'll never learn anything. But practice makes perfect. As Gobber says in How To Train Your Dragon, "I believe in learning on the job." That is essential when finding your creative process. Because it is your process. And it is unique to you. You probably won't figure out exactly how you do things right away. But who knows? Maybe you will.

Hopefully this makes sense and I'm not speaking gibberish. Because guess what? I'm a newbie at this. My current novel is only my second one.

So what are your experiences editing? Are you still participating in the Plotless challenge? Were you in the first place? How is it going? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!