Every Monday I take a popular post from the past, and I recover it with new information and approaches. Today’s topic is more relevant than ever. I first tackled this topic over a year ago, explaining what it was like to rewrite November Snow, my first published novel from 2007, but, at the time, I had no idea I would finish the rewrite, let alone that the rewrite would turn into Bad Bloods and be signed with Clean Teen Publishing for release in July of 2016. The original post can be found here, and it covers totally different aspects, so I highly recommend checking out the first one too. Here are my top three lessons I learned by rewriting a novel…and getting it published again.
1. Every Change is a Ripple…and a GIANT Wave.
I was not prepared for this, even though you’d think it would be obvious. Well, it wasn’t. I went into the rewrite with a few goals. I knew of a couple of things I wanted to change, but the more I studied my own work, the more I realized I had to change, and each change—even the smallest of changes—had a HUGE ripple effect on the rest of the work. (It’s more accurate to call it a wave.) Before you ever attempt a rewrite, read your own work and take notes. As you rewrite it, take even more notes, so you know you aren’t contradicting yourself or messing up versions. Example? In the new version, I wanted the lunar calendar to be accurate since it was off in the original. That doesn’t seem so hard, does it? Wrong. A good couple of chapters, as well as a symbolic part of the story, revolved around the lunar calendar, and every change I made caused certain parts of the story to be shifted around. Tension and weather patterns moved. Whole paragraphs moved. Scenes had to be deleted, and others were pushed back. Even the purpose had to change. It was possibly the most difficult part of the rewrite. That one change affected everything else. Everything.
2. Aspects You Love will be Added…and Lost.
In the end, certain things had to go. I lost some of the funnier moments and the cheesy moments, but new humor and romance was added. Old characters became better (sometimes almost unrecognizable) versions of themselves, and other characters had to take a bigger backseat than they did before. Some details weren’t necessary. Other details I never even thought of adding had to be added. A change you didn’t want might even happen simply because of the ripple effect discussed above. You can rejoice in the additions and mourn these loses. It’s okay to feel sad about a particular scene going down the drain, even if it’s miniscule. Heck, you might even keep it in case you want to write a short story that goes along with your novel. Nothing has to go away forever, but deciding what is right and what isn’t for your story is important, no matter how much it hurts. You can do it. Follow your gut.
3. Staying True to You (And the Work) is Harder Than You Think
Maybe you started writing this when the genre was hot, but now it’s not. Maybe you had a purpose that has now been done before. Maybe X numbers of things have happened since you began the story, but now your life has changed. So, you want to stay true to the story, but you have NEW challenges (and temptations). I’ve covered this before, but I truly believe my 11-year-old self was a better writer than I am today. (Read this article to see what I mean: My 11-Year-Old Self was a Better Writer) To sum it up, she was fearless. I am not. My younger self didn’t worry about things like word count or trends or paychecks or deadlines. I just wrote. Now that I’m older, it’s HARD not to worry about if the book will fit the “correct” word count so you can even try to talk to a publisher about it. This can make you feel as if you’re a square peg trying to fit into a circle hole, and sometimes, it’s tempting to make yourself a circle. But you’re not. You’re a square. As an example, the original version of Bad Bloods was 110,000 words. So, I set out to bring the book down to 80,000 words in order to “fit” the industry standard. Spoiler alert: I failed. Terribly. I actually ADDED 20,000 words, because, in the end, I realized the story was missing vital aspects. This took me a long while to accept. It was a lot of banging my head against my desk. But guess what? It worked out in the end. I signed it with Clean Teen Publishing, and they love it, word count and all. Who knows what would’ve happened if I had forced it to go the other way? Be you…even if you have no idea where it will take you.
When I first covered this topic over a year ago, I had no idea where a rewrite would take me, but I knew it was the best thing for me to do. I also acknowledge all of the doubt, tears, and frustration I had along the way. Was this scene necessary? Can I condense this? But I love that scene! This dialogue is terrible. What was I thinking? Here we go again. Should I give up? Why would I want to rewrite this anyway? Who would want a book this big? This doesn’t fit any trend right now. No publisher wants something that was previously published. Gah! What am I thinking?
Guess what? All of my doubts were wrong. My gut was right.
It worked out in the end, and I am more excited than ever before to see Bad Bloods release this summer by Clean Teen Publishing. In fact, it will be published on the nine-year anniversary of the original version.
Follow your gut no matter how much time it takes. It’s worth it.
Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM! I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. I’d love to see you! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!
Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Goodreads
Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Goodreads
Death Before Daylight: book 3:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Goodreads
You can even read The Timely Death Trilogy on your new Kindle Fire!
Clean Teen Publishing is giving one away. Enter here.
16 thoughts on “#WritingTips What I Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel”
A great post Shannon! Which should give courage to really trust your deep feelings… sometimes. You fully right about letting aside something and after long time deciding to take a new chance. That isn’t easy to do, sometimes after years, you even change the way you express yourself and re-writing a novel is an Amazing job. My compliments for this “bad bloods” it is going to be a smash! Have a great week :-)claudine
I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your encouragement of Bad Bloods too!
#3 is so true and I think my younger self had the same fearlessness. That sense of naivety at the beginning can be pretty potent. Honestly, I still don’t concern myself with word counts and just want the story to be coherent and fun. Congrats on everything working out in the end, which is probably one of the best feelings in the world.
I TRY not to worry about those things, but I find myself checking the word count and such as I write. I think that’s why I was having difficultly with Take Me Yesterday, so writing by hand is helping. (Can’t check anything. lol) It’s funny how those things can affect you, even when you don’t try to let them affect you. I am very grateful this project worked out in the end! It can for so many writers, but I think many stop before they try. I remember with Bad Bloods, right as I was finishing it, my current publisher said they would no longer focus on standalones, and I FREAKED out since Bad Bloods was “one book” and a standalone. But they loved it, and because of the word count, it was a perfect two-part series. So it worked out, even though I didn’t think it would up until the end.
I’m curious why they would stop publishing stand alones. I guess the series is what’s hot now, but I’m wondering what the publisher reasoning for it is. Either way, it seems like everything fell perfectly into place for the book. Nice when that happens.
Oh, they most definitely are still publishing standalones, but they are focusing more on series, which is why I got nervous at that time. It’s just a speciality thing and quite normal with most publishers right now. (Even Trad 5 agents have talked about that.) Their reader base loves series, and like you said, it’s the trend right now, so I completely see where they are coming from. I know I follow a lot of Trad 5 workers, just to know what’s up in the industry, and many agents are constantly talking about authors needing to be ready for a series…which is really funny for me, because a few years ago, when I was trying to go that route, they always said to NEVER mention a series potential because it was “cocky.” Now, it’s almost necessary to be prepared to answer that question. It’s crazy how much changes!
That’s pretty crazy. I remember being told not to pitch my books as a series long ago. Still did it, which doesn’t say much for my listening skills. I wonder if the prospect of movies and TV show adaptations is a driving force. That seems to be a milestone for many people when it comes to a book series. Which is rather strange.
Exactly! I thought that was crazy too when I read it, because I’d never heard of that before. Granted, it’s been years since getting directly involved, but I do try to stay up-to-date on that kind of information because it shows how the industry is changing. I don’t know if it’s a “pitch” where you should mention a series. I haven’t read that except in one Writer’s Digest article, where an agent talked about how much he liked the fact that the author mentioned writing a second book already (because it showed dedication to the genre and understanding of the necessity), but it seems to mainly be a thing you are supposed to be prepared to talk about if they like your first novel. I’ll try to find that example and send it to you.
HERE IT IS: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries-agent-miriam-kriss-and-the-iron-witch
“She’s also showing she knows what an appropriate length for this genre is. The mention of a second book shows that she’s in it for the long haul and that she plans a series, which is again is appropriate for this genre.”
^^ Mentioning a series in a query letter as a positive thing was UNHEARD of a few years ago.
Writer’s Digest is awesome by the way.
Thanks. I’ve heard that being said about series authors too. Maybe there’s a fear of having a big success and then not having anything to follow up with. Funny how much psychology goes into this. Haven’t read a Writer’s Digest in years.
Thanks Shannon this post resonated with me so much. I started Suleskerry, and just wrote and wrote. Suleskerry has been rewritten now about five times and each re write is a steady learning curve showing how my knowledge of our craft has improved. It is a deadly balancing game, keeping the story that was in your heart while trying to fit it into a packaged deal.
It is! I’m with you there. I’m on the third rewrite of another book I’m currently working on, and it can be both exciting and completely draining, but we push forward anyway, because it’s worth it in the end. 🙂 Best of luck with Suleskerry!
I realized I didn’t really know what my story was when first setting out to hammer down my first novel. I really had to struggle more than a year with rewrites and whatnot. My lesson was, I need to spend more time with my story before starting to write. It helped me with the second and the third novel. Though, honestly, it still took an awful lot of rewrites.
Congrats! I’m in the midst of another project now (scfi Mars colony) but my first novel nags at me for a rewrite. I think I’ve been afraid of what I might lose – but you give me courage. 🙂