Weekly Musing: The Pain of Rewriting

Last month I began the process of revising my 2013 NaNoWriMo rough draft. Having given it a few months to marinate, I was anxious to start reworking it. Normally I don’t mind editing and revision because it’s the opportunity to make something better. Sure, it’s a long and frequently frustrating process but writing is hard work.

This was different, though. I got through the first few pages of what I determined should be the prologue with little problem other than cringing at certain portions. After that, the more I started thinking about the story, the more I just didn’t like what I had written. Any of it. Not that it was necessarily poorly written it simply wasn’t my original vision. It lacked drama, tension, and emotion. The main character on paper wasn’t the one residing in my head. Granted that vision developed over the course of November and I know I ran out of steam toward the end due to a lot of real life stress.

And while I realized this, I soldiered through the rest of the manuscript highlighting phrases and parts I liked. Notes were made and stored in Scrivener. A small amount of research was conducted and again stored in Scrivener to help fuel my imagination. It’s okay to rework it; that’s the point of all of this I kept telling myself.

After reading an article outlining step-by-step a process which seemed simple and easy enough to use, I started working on creating a formal outline. I thought it would help me focus my ideas. I was wrong. In a span of just a couple of weeks, I think I came up with at least three different stories I could have written. Each time I started a skeleton outline for each idea, I started to hate it. I saw all the potential plot holes and nothing felt right enough. It was frustrating and demoralizing. At one point I considered abandoning the project.

Then one night in the shower, an idea that finally felt right popped into my head. After I was done with my shower, I rushed to my writing sanctuary and jotted down it on my whiteboard.

The next day I looked it over and transferred the seed of this idea into Scrivener and once again started a skeleton outline. It felt more what the characters wanted to communicate their story to be. I was excited to get to work because I had completely accepted the idea that I was starting from scratch.

Since April has 30 days, the same as November, I am going to use this month to write a new rough draft. It’s been exciting and scary at the same time. I’ve been wrestling with believing I wasted a lot of time back in November and last month. By now I had hoped I would have a second draft but now I’m back at square one. Lovely. I’m also wrestling with the notion that perhaps when this month is over that whatever I write may not be even worth revising.

Yet it is still a valuable experience to go through. I don’t know how to write a novel. It’s only through practice, a lot of practice, that I’ll be able to figure out what works best for me. Sure, I can read different methods, and I have, but time and time again it just comes down to what works best for a writer and the manuscript. Yes, it is embarrassing telling people ‘Oh, yeah that book I wrote in November, that really awful draft, yeah it no longer exists. I’m starting over.’ Seeing those confused looks is difficult to get over. I can see they don’t understand but I have to resist the urge to get defensive and explain my process.

Fingers crossed I’ll have gotten better at writing a novel by the end of this month.

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