What I’ve Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel
As many of you know, I am currently rewriting November Snow – my very first publication. Although I started writing it when I was 11, it didn’t get published until I was 16. I took it off the shelves for many years, and it is basically off the shelves right now for many reasons, but the main reason is how unprofessionally it was handled. (Mainly because the publishing world has changed a lot since then, but we’ll get into that in a minute.)
So I’m rewriting this older tale, and I’m looking forward to day I can share it again, but today, I wanted to talk about all of the little lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. I was a terrible writer, and I probably still am
Seriously. I hope I look back when I’m 59 on what I’m writing now with the same amount of horror. That means I’ve grown. That means I’m still learning, and changing, and morphing into what the new art demands.
2. I needed help. Lots of help. Professional help.
By this, I mean editors. Yes, I’m talking about you, editors. You are lovely. I’m practically preparing my altar right now. If only I had known you existed back then… Now, before you judge me for not having one, 2007 was a very different time in publishing (and I was 16.) Kindle had just been released, but it was brand new. There were no supporters online or fellow indie writers just waiting to speak with you in chatrooms. I don’t even think Wattpad was around yet. (Okay. I just looked it up. It launched in November of 2006 – but I already had November Snow written by then, and I definitely didn’t join Wattpad until 2010.) But the Indie world hadn’t started marching proudly yet. That goes for cover artists, too. You may have seen the weird cover I had. That’s because affordable cover artists – like editors – didn’t exist in easy-to-reach places, and I was 15 when the publisher wanted a cover. I didn’t exactly have the ability to network or pay a large sum of money or drive around town to find a photographer. So my older brother drew my vision on a napkin. What I TRULY wanted actually looks a lot like the designed covers of The Mortal Instruments series. (which is probably why I refused to read the series for such a long time. That was my cover, dammit.) Speaking of which, if you know a cover artist you think could design something wicked for November Snow, please – suggest away. I’m looking right now.
3. Despite all of that, things aren’t as bad as they seem
The storyline rocks, and the characters melt me and break me at the same time. They’re challenging, and the dark twists and turns don’t stop. People have enjoyed it despite the mistakes, and it’s more or less going to have the same plots, secrets, and betrayals. For all you original November Snow fans, I beg of you – please refrain from spoiling the story for new readers. (That is my only worry.) But if you must know, yes, whoever you’re thinking about still dies. Yes, them, too.
4. And it’s getting better
Some characters have actually formed MORE than before, and I’m only on November 4. (For those of you who don’t know, November Snow literally takes place over one month, and yes, it’s November.) While the original beginning was rather forced, this new beginning builds up the world of Vendona with honesty (and brutality) that I was unable to show when I first wrote it. The characters aren’t as cheesy, and the extra fluff has been trimmed into a fashionable haircut (who needs speaking tags anyway?) Physical descriptions have been shifted for the better, and the scenes connect in a cleaner, more concise way. Many names have been changed as well, but the main characters will remain largely the same. (Ex. Caitlin to Catelyn, Michelle to Michele, but Drew is now Floyd. I’ll announce more on this later.)
5. I started off second-guessing, and now, I’m really happy
I wasn’t sure why November Snow has been haunting me for all of these years, but I’ve figured it out a few weeks ago when I wrote My 11-Year-Old Self was a Better Writer. I am meant to write darker stories. I know this about myself. I write darker fiction. I enjoy it. I find myself in it, and that’s where my creativity belongs. Returning to November Snow is allowing myself to find that passion again, but – most of all – it’s helping me fully embrace it.
Just the other day, I received an email from a reviewer of Take Me Tomorrow. She talked about how much darker it is from the trilogy and how she is definitely looking forward to my future works. On Twitter, two readers translated November Snow into Spanish, and an old friend from my high school messaged me when they heard that I was rewriting it. They couldn’t wait. They’ve been waiting for a rewrite ever since I returned to my novelist ways. Another longtime fan offered to beta read it since they know the story so well. (They wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything.) And a graphic designer already offered to help design a cover, even if I choose to use someone else.
These moments bring tears to my eyes.They do.
I won’t lie. I’m nervous. I’m terribly, sickeningly nervous. When I wrote a controversial scene the other night, I could barely get through it, but I did, and afterward, I felt like my readers accomplished it with their encouragement. (And my typing helped a little bit.) But I ultimately hope to learn more lessons along the way, so I can share them, and we can discuss them as we go. Have you ever learned anything about rewriting? Any advice? Warnings?