So You Need To Rewrite Your Novel

(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?

Cool.

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Rejection or Why Marty Shouldn’t Write After Shoveling

Sucks.

It does. We all know it, because we all experience it. Everyone gets rejected.

File it under Human Condition, kick it down the curb like a dinged up Coke can, shout at the sky in frenetic, spoken word poetry while the storm rumbles. However you want to flag it, rejection is a thing that happens to us all, and we all gotta confront it how we like.

I can’t seem to sell this one damn story. Hell, I’m not having luck with a few things, but lumping my stories all together is silly, because they’re all different, and hell, who knows, maybe they’ll find a home soon enough but I got one story that’s nestled between my teeth like the ghost of a steak dinner, and it’s making me a little batty.

I’ve reached the point in my career, (that bears its own blog post), where my writing is solid enough, and the stories are good enough, that many editors are reading them through the end, really reading them, considering and weighing and deliberating with the other folks involved in making and putting together all the amazing magazines we have out there. And many days, these editors will pass on the story I’ve sent them, often with words of encouragement and kindness and support and to those editors I say thank you and bless you for your time, because being an editor and being the one to read ALL THESE STORIES and then make a decision, that’s a tough job, man, a real tough job.

These guys have a really hard job. Like, A REALLY HARD JOB. I slush read for a great, popular magazine, and just the amount of stories submitted, the amount of, well, slush to slog through in order to find the gems, and even then, to separate the gems and find the ones that will not only shine, but come together in a way to make the best issue possible . . . That’s a really hard job. Editors and agents and readers have a very difficult job, (another blog post in it’s own right and one that will see the light of day soon). I think a lot of writers forget that. Believe me, I don’t blame ’em, man. Story’s not working for you, it’s not working for you. I know it ain’t personal.

But this story stuck between my teeth, I feel it’s well written, but the fuck do I know? I’m the papa bear, I wrote the damn thing. I like to think its good, that it’ll make people think, maybe make them laugh, but again, I wrote the damn thing. I should be thinking that stuff. If it wasn’t ready for the light of day, I wouldn’t even be shopping it around.

I think the frustrating thing, for me and a lot of writers, is that you just don’t know, yeah? Maybe it just hasn’t found the right market. Maybe it needs a re-write. Maybe a certain character arc, or bit of dialogue is holding it back. It could just be that this is a highly subjective business with a million and half different factors influencing how a reader will read or view or judge things, and that maybe the stars need to align just so before this piece finds a home. But I think that’s the frustrating thing: you just don’t know. And if you’re going to survive in this industry, you need to make peace with that unknowableness.

Bah, I’m rambling, and I’m amped up on adrenaline from shoveling, (seriously, we have like a foot and half out there, and part of me just wants to drown in beer and the other half wants to run a marathon to Montana and back because Adrenaline Is Scary And Makes You Want To Move).

Guess I’m trying to say, if you’re a writer who has gotten rejected, (by which I mean, if you’re a writer), then you’ve probably felt as I do. And maybe you’re ready to throw in the towel, say Fuck It, Dude, and go play PS3 until your brain turns to spinach and never submit again.

Well, I’m here to say to you and remind myself, don’t.

Don’t give up, writer friends.

Rejection is the name of the game. Rejection is going to be the 9 times out of 10, the waves that lash you and hit you as push your way out to sea, the heat that seems never ending, daunting, endless. But don’t let it stop you.

Rejection is going to come for you a lot. Let it push you, motivate you, make you work on your stories and your writing so hard and with such fervor that they can’t help but notice you. Rejection is nature’s way of knocking you to the ground so you can get back up.

Let the rejection become your fuel, your red bull, your super soldier serum.

It sucks. It absolutely sucks. But you have to keep trying. You have to keep submitting the strongest stories possible. You have to keep working on your craft in the held breath between submission and answer.

And when you sell a story, smile, celebrate, shout in joy.

Then keep submitting. Keep working.

Write on, space cowboys.