1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Complete Re-Writes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TLK, Feb 16, 2014.

    So I finished the first draft of my first novel (woo, go me) a few months ago and although it obviously needed editing, I took some time off to write another novel (first draft of this one now complete), to take a break from that particular story whilst still improving my writing skills. Even I notice that the difference between the last few chapters of my second novel are of a significantly better quality that the first few chapters of my first. It's quite some difference.

    So I came to the conclusion that I should probably just start writing the first one again, doing a second draft completely from scratch in a second document. Obviously, I'll refer to the first for the storyline, but I won't be going through an editing it, and I highly doubt I'll be transferring anything over. There's a few plot changes I want to implement as well.

    My question is, however, is this a good idea? I see nothing wrong with it, but wanted to check whether there were any hidden risks associated with it that I should watch out for (deviation, for example)? And finally, I wanted to see if anyone had any tips for such a venture?

    Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    New writers make mistakes that writers who have already edited stories, to within an inch of their lives, stop making. Passive verb use (retch) and strings of prepositional phrases get stopped before they start. Because who wants to have to fix it all on an edit? You will still need to edit the snot out of your second draft, but if the first copy is nothing but mistakes, it might be faster to just start from scratch.

    Do it whichever way makes you happiest. After it is done, edit it in a way that will make it easiest to read. :)
     
  3. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    I don't think it's the grammar that's the issue, more like the quality of the writing. I'm also changing the plot around a bit, as well as completely changing the way one character speaks.
     
  4. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I saw the same issues, when I edited book two. I could clearly recall how much work went into polishing the first book. By the time I finished the second I was stunned at how much smoother everything was. :) Far less fiddling! There was still plenty of work to do but the story parts fell into place so much more... gracefully.

    Congratulations on finishing your books though and especially for not balking at the thought of re-writing the first one in order to make it right. Good job :)
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds like a lot of changes. A whole new draft might be the better way to go. If you do, don't be surprised if your story changes in unexpected ways. Consider it a sign of growth.
     
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  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It might be a good idea, or it might be an overreaction. Only you can decide whether your manuscript is so damaged that a fresh start is called for. For a first novel, I can easily believe you learned so much while writing that first draft that a reboot makes the most sense. On the other hand, it may be salvageable with plenty of work.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds to me as if you want to keep your basic story idea, maybe change a few things around to accomodate some plot changes which have occurred to you since you wrote your first draft, and perhaps entirely change the WAY it's written?

    If I've got this right, I'd say you might want to set up a timeline before you start writing again. This is kind of like a diary, NOT an outline.

    Pick particular dates that matter to the story, and write a line or two that tells you what happens on that date.

    January 5, 1124, Geoffrey leaves home to begin the search for his father William, the Duke of Maitland.
    February 12, 1124, Geoffrey reaches the castle gate and meets Frederick. Jennifer decides her daughter Ellen must marry Alfred instead of Robert, and schedules the wedding for midsummer.
    April 25, 1124, Geoffrey's birthday, he is now 18 years old.
    June 22, 1124 - the wedding of Ellen and Alfred

    Fit this information around what your characters are doing. This makes sure that your characters can be where you want them to be, that they have enough time to get from one place to another, that all the puzzle pieces fit together. You will add to these dates as events occur, so no matter how complicated your story gets, you'll always know who is doing what, and where they are.

    As you write, you'll have this as a guideline, so you won't forget anything, or deviate from anything you want kept. This is also an excellent way to weave fiction with fact, if you are writing a historical novel or a contemporary one that refers to real dates.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
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  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've done this occasionally with short stories. I did a draft of a short story back in 1988 that I liked, but at the time I was very much under the spell of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Because of that, I set it in a kind of proto-steampunk Victorian England - horsedrawn cabs, clubs, pipe smoke and brandy, etc. When I dug it out twenty years later, I saw the whole setting was utterly wrong, as was the old-fashioned, somewhat pompous prose I'd written it in. I rewrote the story from scratch, not even looking at the original, and now it's a much more streamlined modern dystopian sci-fi piece. My writing class loved it.

    Come to think of it, I should submit it to magazines. There's no reason it shouldn't be on the market.

    I'm doing it again right now. I got half way through a short story - a difficult one, for me - and decided I was approaching it all wrong. This story has to have a lot of punch, and the short story form just won't cut it, I think. I'm completely rewriting it, and I expect now that it'll turn into a short novel.

    I read somewhere that D.H. Lawrence wrote his novels this way. He'd write a first draft, then write a second draft from scratch without even looking at the first. I guess he used the first draft to train himself to tell the story and the second was the actual performance.
     
  9. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I lost electrical power once, right after finishing the first six chapters of my third book.

    Before I found out how to find the auto-save Word file, I re-wrote the entire thing. It was a whole day of work and I was furious. The scene was the vengeful death of a bad guy. Let me tell you, I took out my frustrations on that character. In re-reading the section, after I found the original, it was clear! The second version was far superior! I still never want to do that again though.
     
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've done this before. Just be careful. Your talent is always growing and you could find yourself in the same predicament - wanting to rewrite your rewrite when it's done. Thus, it becomes a never-ending cycle.
    2 of my novels are guilty of this. They don't just have drafts, they have complete rewrites - and as I grow each one becomes less satisfactory.

    But it's probably my tendency to write to find a theme/goal. And not finding one have to keep starting over.

    Maybe get an opinion - Once I thought my writing had gotten better but it actually got worse ( I was imitating Nabokov - er - rather trying to ) between drafts. Take two snippets from the story - your best and worst and see if you're on track.
     
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  11. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Funny thing that, because it parallels what I saw. I wrote novel #1, and while I was querying for it I started #2. I finished it and looked back at #1 and was horrified to find how much better I was now writing. So I went back and fixed #1 and started on #3. But when I finished that I found that #1 & 2 needed to be updated. So I did that and started on #4. I was stupid but prolific.

    When I finished #6 I paid for an evaluation by a pro and learned that I had not a clue of how to write, and was getting more and more polished at writing crap. Why? Because I was still using the writing skills given me in my school days, which are a general skill, not those of a fiction writing pro. Worse yet they're designed for the needs of business and so are nonfiction writing skills. So I was thinking cinematically and telling the story (explaining it, really), not making the reader experience it in real-time. I was informing when I should have been entertaining. I stopped the action for info-dumps of backstory. I thought a scene on the page was the same as a scene in film and stage. And, I thought POV referred to which personal pronouns were used. I didn't know the three things a reader wants clarified ASAP on entering a scene, why scenes end in disaster, or even that the concept of a scene goal existed.

    In short, I had not a clue, though I though of my self as a good enough writer to stand a chance of selling my work.

    That was my wake-up call and got me digging into the tricks of the trade and the craft the pros take for granted. And the next query I sent out, some six months later, yielded a contract.
     
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  12. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Brilliant, thanks for all the replies guys! Wasn't expecting to get this many and they've all been very helpful indeed :)

    @jannert thanks especially for the tip about the timeline. I am quite happy with the general idea of the story, and many aspects of its plot, so that'll be really useful. But, as @EdFromNY said, I won't be perturbed if I end up changing it quite drastically. I've heard many other instances of authors doing this, after all.

    To give a little more info, I think I probably could "salvage" - to use Cogito's term - my first novel by editing the first draft, but I don't think it's worth it. It's like when you have a really old car. You can keep it running and road-legal, but it'll cost loads for MOT and other repairs. It's probably just easier to buy another, newer car. Also, the plot changes I want, or at least plan, to implement aren't at all huge, rather just changing around what some of the minor characters do, and fleshing out certain parts. I think this character (whose speech I want to change) is one of the big things though, as obviously it's something I want to keep consistent.

    Thanks again for all your advice everyone :)
     

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