This week, I’ve finally buckled down and started serious work on rewriting the rough draft I finished in November. In January, I reread it (the first time I’ve looked it over since I wrote it) and made about ten pages (front and back) of notes – too much exposition here, need clarification there, move this scene to here, more backstory for this person, cut that character out, etc. Then I sidled uncomfortably away from it to avoid the part where you clutch your head in your hands and wonder how the hell you’re going to make it all work.
This week, I surprised my rough draft by confronting it outright. It wasn’t expecting that, so my frontal assault went well. We were honest and open with one another and the results were good – the rough draft is aware that it needs true change in its life, and it’s ready to face the challenges of transformation that it needs to go through in order to achieve its potential. I have explained to it that it won’t do either of us any good for me to be gentle about it, that this is a time for straightforwardness and tough love. The rough draft understands that, and claims to appreciate my good intentions, even when it hurts a little to hear the truth.
So now that we’re on the same page, (haha) I can finally get down to brass tacks. At the beginning of a rewrite, I feel like there’s this huge, unmanageable nebula of STORY that is bigger than the sum of the words that make it up, and I’m overwhelmed at the prospect of shaping the STORY, not just the words. It seems impossible to organize, and I worry about it for a few weeks without really accomplishing much. Then, at some point (in this case, this past week), I just start working, and things begin to take shape and make sense – almost instinctually, connections coming together “all on their own”.
Maybe that two or three weeks of “Oh, crap, I don’t wanna do this!” are actually necessary, and maybe underneath the panic, my subconscious is working away on the story in an effort to soothe my terrified conscious writer-brain.
Regardless, once I get started, my method is firmly reliant on organization and note-making. What I’m doing to get to draft two is:
- Break the book up into chapters, since the rough was so rough I didn’t even try to make it coherent (50,000 words in one month will do that)
- At the beginning of each chapter, make notes on what needs to be fixed about the material, unless the entire chapter needs to be moved to another part of the book – then, I note what material should be in the chapter and where the current material needs to be moved to
- Include in the chapter by chapter notes any overarching themes/conflicts/ideas that need to be established by that point (such as, “By now, I need to have explained the Tiernan religion’s kin figures…might be a good spot here, when Cordell does [this].”)
- Obey the notes.
Once you have a plan for every chapter, it doesn’t seem so horribly overwhelming to dig in and do the work. It starts to feel exciting. It starts to be easy, except where you run into snags, and even those start to feel like puzzles to enjoy solving (in spite of the swearing that occurs as you work on them). It’s starting to feel exciting to me now, and although I know I will gripe and moan over this draft later, I also know that I’ll get it done and I’ll be glad I did it.