Rewriting Above World

I’m working on the first rewrite of my middle grade novel Above World. Intellectually, I know that the first few chapters had a lot of problems. Intellectually, I know that a fresh look and a whole new draft of those chapters is called for.

But emotionally, it’s tough. Those first few chapters are what helped me fall in love with the story and the characters the first time around. Throwing them away feels like I’m chopping off a limb.

I can’t work in all the phrases that I loved from the first draft because the events have changed. Changed for the better, I think, but still. I miss the little character moments that don’t fit this time. I miss bits of description that helped me visualize the world, but that aren’t appropriate anymore.

Oh, sure, I’m putting in new character moments and description, and I hope they’re just as good if not better. But I know the characters now. What I’m writing elucidates and explains them. During the first draft, I was exploring the characters, I was finding them. That’s not a feeling I can get back.

Does this make any sense? Do you feel this way, too, when you do a “page one” rewrite?


Comments

Jamie 9 years ago .

Jenn:

I'm excited to learn that you have returned to work on ABOVE WORLD. You seemed to be sinking increasing amounts of time and effort into writing for Veritas, and I was beginning to think you might never get back to your own work. But your master plan obviously involved returning to the novel all along. Yippee!

I always approach re-writes with a groan. I suppose it's difficult to overcome that Middle School "I-can-get-it-all-done-in-one-draft-then-sit-and-watch-TV" impulse. But we must. There's always a certain amount of fidgeting that comes from sitting and staring at something you've re-written many times before and trying to figure out how to make it better. But then that magic moment arrives when the door opens and you've unlocked a richness that you always knew was lurking below the surface. It's amazing and magical. Farming has helped me understand this process better.

We have a field we've been cultivating for two years now: rich soil slathered with a heapin' helpin' of nutrients. The ground itself has been good to us, yielding ripe strawberries the size of your fist and veggies to die for. But as we finished the season last year, we realized we had to care for the soil if we planned to use it again. So we turned it up and planted broadcast rye. We'll plough this under come spring and it will nourish the ground.

Writing seems to work the same way. We plant, harvest and rotate the soil. This sometimes involves turning under the shoots of newly-sprouted plants. It sucks to see them go, but their sacrifice is necessary for the coming harvest. So it is with those wonderful "found ideas" and rich character moments in first-draft fiction. We have to murder them in order to nourish the subconscious. The result will hopefully be a greater yield down the road. Hope this helps. Happy writing!

Jenn Reese 9 years ago .

I was beginning to think I'd never get back to my own writing, too. I wish I could credit a master plan, but alas, it was a metaphorical slap in the face that woke me from my stupor.

I love this farm/soil metaphor. Yes, even though I can't grow a damn thing, I love the metaphor anyway. I love thinking about writing in terms of something wholly not-writing. This is beautiful and very relevant to my thought patterns lately. Thank you very much.

Christine Ashworth 9 years ago .

Fabulous metaphor – as a gardener, I can relate.

And yay, you're writing again!!! Jenn, you know I always have to toss two or three iterations of my first chapter. I think you are lucky – I don't fall in love with my characters until I'm a good third to a half way through the novel.

Consider it birthing pains. Very similar to the farm/soil metaphor – only a tad more painful.

Love you!

Comments are closed.