Keeping It Fresh   4 comments

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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This was actually a hard question for me because I am always trying new things … new recipes, new hiking trails, new ideas, but those seem like they aren’t all that new because I’m always doing them. Does it count if I make a new recipe using techniques I’ve mastered decades ago? I didn’t think it did.

I eventually hit on what I am doing this November. I’ve done NaNoWriMo before as a challenge with a friend and wrote a deeply-flawed novel I have no interest in ever rescuing. I wrote myself into a corner and the main character refuses to speak to me, so it will languish on a disc in my archives and that’s probably it.

This year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo to rewrite a novel I think could be a great story with a main character that has been talking to me for two decades. When I write, I usually loop back to re-read portions of what I’ve written and to rewrite so things flow in context, but the rules of NaNoWriMo are that you write it in one run and you don’t edit. There’s no way I could do that with a new novel. I am firmly convinced the flaws of that earlier novel are a function of that process and it’s dead to me since I can’t write if the characters don’t talk to me. Apparently, I can’t even rewrite without character interaction.

This current novel concentrates on a young recovering alcoholic getting out of jail for a crime he deeply regrets. He wants forgiveness but knows he’ll never receive it. It’s loosely based on a  friend’s unfortunate years that deeply affected me when he told me about it. My novel is not his story, though he has been an adviser for some aspects of it.

What If Wasn’t has been written over several years. The plot makes sense, but a beta reader pointed out a lot of flaws. It’s episodic. The main scenes don’t appear to build on one another. It’s filled with bumper-sticker recovery language and way too much self-analysis by the main character.  A romance buds in it but I never pursued it because I was focused on the MC’s damage and painful past. The story itself needs to be deepened and made emotionally compelling.

So I’m going through and rewriting some scenes and then adding scenes that link the major scenes together. In the process, I’ve discovered a larger backdrop story that I didn’t realize existed that can act to drive some of the narrative. This time, I’m concentrating on making Peter more human and focusing not on his past, though he still has to haul that rotting baggage with him, but his way forward.

What I’m doing is a complete rewrite, save for a couple of scenes that impressed that beta reader, and I’m not looping back. Looping back is part of my established process, but this time I’m not doing that. I’ve written/rewritten 70,000 words this November and I’m getting to a great place in the story where the climax is about to happen. Peter thinks he’s ready to move forward and he’s about to be blindsided by a tidal wave he doesn’t see coming. I already wrote that – it was a point the beta reader thought worked well, but what follows it needs a huge rethink, to resolve that romance and to point Peter down the road to his future. I know there are continuity errors and that has me itching to loop back, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to write those scenes this coming week. November 30 I’m going to close the rewrite, hopefully with the last scene written, and take a break from that story.

I’m learning a new skill, a difficult skill, a discipline I am not certain I will use in the future and know I won’t make it a centerpiece of my process, but I want to see if it can be a useful tool that improves my final product, maybe something to be added to a rewrite process. It certainly has sped up the rewrite and we’ll see if the novel is improved by it. I know this rewrite is better than what was written before. I also know it won’t be the final draft of this novel.

So when was the last time I did something for the first time? I’m doing it right now. 

4 responses to “Keeping It Fresh

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  1. Well done for even taking part in NaNoWriMo. I cannot write to order I’m afraid.

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  2. I’ve done Nano several times. Even succeeded two years! It’s an interesting way to force you to drop your inner editor and just write.

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    • I have definitely succeeded, though I’ll need this weekend to finish the rewrite, which is two days that I didn’t write earlier in the month because of other life activities. This rewrite was hard because it’s a book I’ve noodled with for two decades and it has some great stuff, but it needed a major rewrite. It was a tree with a lot of trunks, if you know what I mean. I had to do a lot of pruning, which left a lot of gaps and continuity errors, so a lot of the rewrite was writing linkages. What I have now will also need rewriting, but it’s a lot better. And I figured out a backdrop story that explains so much that needed to be explained. So, yeah, the time-limited nature really helped me get the work done and not feel like it was going to take forever. It could only take 30 days.

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