To Rewrite

I’m struggling with rewriting a story.

Editing I can do. Revising I can do (after all, revising is a lot like editing, right?)

But rewriting is a whole different game.

I’ve spent a couple months with some health issues which meant I didn’t get any work done on the new story. I know it’s going to be easy to pick that thread up again but right now the energy I have for writing isn’t streaming toward creating. So I pulled out an old story I wrote almost twenty years ago.

I love that story but there are serious structural issues with it. Not enough characters, so that the antagonist is glaringly obvious. Not enough conflict. And not enough subplots. Well, let’s be honest. There’s basically one subplot and that’s it. Which, as any writer of fiction knows, won’t support a novel-length story.

demolition 09 001

Symbolic of structural issues, wouldn’t you agree?

So I decided to use this time of healing to rewrite that story. And I’ve discovered it’s actually hard. I’ve been trying to come up with something to compare the process to. And the closest I can get is baking.

Have you ever baked a cake, finished the batter, poured it into the pan, and then realized that you forgot something vital, like the eggs? So you dump it back into the mixing bowl and try to add what you forgot, but it just doesn’t mix up quite the same. And doesn’t bake quite right.

Rewriting is like trying to add those darn eggs after the cake is baked.

Arts birthday & climbing 003

Guess this is the only photo I have of a cake. Obviously not one I baked!

So much energy is invested in creating and editing and polishing. And then there’s the process of letting go so the story can go out into the world. Rewriting is also like trying to pick up that energy after it’s long dissipated. Trying to find the mood that story was written in.

It’s challenging to find spots to slip in new characters or new dialog. That seems much harder than adding in bits of internalizations. Then there’s trying to figure out conflicts and subplots for secondary characters that I’ve now realized I never knew.

There’s too much in the story that’s good to just toss and start all over. I’m not even sure I could start over and end up with the same spirit that’s in this version. I definitely don’t want to lose this version.

So I’m plugging along – literally – plugging in bits and pieces as I go. I still like this old story. But my writing has changed since back then.

The process of rewriting is more challenging than I expected. Luckily I like a challenge when it comes to writing.

We’ll see what happens.

7 thoughts on “To Rewrite

  1. I haven’t written anything novel length yet, but lately I’ve been going back to stories written years ago to fix all sorts of stuff I can see now as glaringly wrong. Some of the ways I wrote things makes me roll my eyes. Some of the fixes I’ve made and details I’ve added in have surprised me.

    I’m trying to turn that autobiographical first chapter you read for me a while back, into a short story that I can send out to a contest for a 6/15 deadline. If it weren’t for things you and other kind writers have taught me, I’d be nowhere near thinking I could attempt such a thing. It probably won’t work, but the practice is good for me.

    I’m glad you like a challenge when it comes to writing. And I’m so glad you feel up to it. My curiosity is piqued.

    • I remember that piece you wrote! And I liked it. Send it over again if you want more eyes to review it before you send it off. I’ll make sure to think good contest vibes on the 15th. It’s fun, in a lot of ways to pull out stuff we wrote years ago as proof that we continue to learn and grow. Sometimes I get discouraged comparing how I wish I wrote to how I write. But when I do something like this, pulling out an oldie, I see that I am improving. Slowly but surely.

      • I’d love for you to read it again! My brain is weary and my eyes are bleary. Thank you so much for offering. ❤ In a couple of days I hope to stop finding mistakes and missteps on my own. Then I'll be ready to tackle the ones that are flying over my head. My own "slowly" part vexes me. Thank goodness the "surely" has kept me going so far.

    • Well, one thing I’ve already discovered – a lot of the dialog sucks. Either it reads almost like slapstick, or else it makes the protagonist come across as abrasive and not likable. Not what I was going for, and thought I’d achieved, when I first wrote the story. I wanted her abrasive and prickly as her protective shielding, but I didn’t realize at the time that she also needed traits to make the readers realize who she was, why she acted the way she did, and that she was different underneath.
      I’m sure we’ll be talking about the process!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s