(Is the title a little dramatic? Maybe? Eh, I’m going to roll with it.)
So! You need to rewrite your novel. Bummer, right? All those hours of work only to be told that this draft just isn’t strong enough, isn’t good enough, some things are working but some things are not, why is there a tortoise in a tank you need to answer that if your readers are going to trust you, and so on.
From here, there are two options:
1: Tell your first and beta-readers to go screw themselves, and shove your work into the world, critics be damned.
2: Take a month off, think about your reader’s comments, and when you’re ready, get back to work.
Now getting back to work could mean a few different things, which is why I advocate taking time off from finishing a novel to working on it right away. For several reasons:
- You’re far too emotionally attached to it to be critical: this is your baby, man! You’re sweat and blood child, crawling in the world, screaming to be loved as you love it, and those guys over there just said your baby sucks eggs! Which isn’t true.
- The fixes you think you need to make today are not the fixes that will last tomorrow. As much as your beta-readers are smart and insightful, not everything they say is going to be right for your next draft; likewise, you’re not going to be thinking critically after people have critiqued your novel. You’re going to need time to back away, and then return to their thoughts, and your novel, fresh.
- Time is the creative’s best tool. There are chance moments when insight strikes from the sky, but many times, a creative person’s ability to mull things over, and work away at it in their mind, until they can come to a synthesis of the best way forward is usually these sorts of edits and fixes will happen.
Take the time you need to absorb the critiques, but don’t take forever: you’re going to want to keep those fires going, and not let them burn down. It’s much harder to jump back into a cold project than a warm one. I myself took a few months off from my critique for Magnetic, but I spent that time asking myself questions about my writing groups thoughts, talking it over with friends, and finding out the best way to preserve the heart of the story, but change the form of it. Now, several months later, the re-outline has started.
Now, I know the title of this post is cheeky, but I want to make a point here: you don’t have to do any of the above. You don’t have to listen to your beta-readers (though you should). You don’t have to re-outline your novel, (but it’s not a bad idea). and you certainly don’t have to rewrite your novel (though it could possibly make it stronger). It’s your project, and it’s up to you how you want to move forward with it. This is what works for me, and I think it’s going to make it stronger in the end.
Do I want to rewrite it? Not particularly. But the art doesn’t ask us to do what’s comfortable. It asks us to do what’s right by it.
So I’m rewriting my novel, Magnetic, as soon as this re-outline is done. And I’m actually really excited about it.
I’ll go through the re-outlining process in a later post, but with the help of my beta-readers and writing group, I have a very cool, clear vision of what this novel could be. I’m changing the tense. I’m adding several new POVs. I’m fleshing out more of the world and side characters. I’m asking for a deeper, more emotional pull from this story, and I think I can get it there. Like I said, hoping to maintain the heart of the novel, but change a lot of the outer layers to get to where I need to go.
It’s going to take work. But I think it’s going to be worth it.
Let’s call this the first post in Novelhead Revisited, and I’ll post more on the outline process as we go. Cool?