1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Rewriting Your First Book...Again

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Feb 24, 2014.

    Hi everyone,

    So last night I was just thinking about writing "stuff", such as how far I've come since I started, whether people like my work, what I want to write in the future, etc. Then I came to thinking about the first novel I wrote, and how much it, well, sucked. But the thing is (and those of you who have written a novel already will understand this a lot more), that first novel is my baby. I can't let it go. I loved the initial premise, the characters (even if they were extremely 2D), the settings. I had 9 books planned for the series. But, as you may have guessed, the manuscript was a flop.

    Only I got to thinking: what if I completely revamped it, the first book in particular? I could read through it again, make a note of what worked and what didn't (and what didn't work simply because I didn't have the writing ability back then), and see if I could create a new universe - a super-universe, if you will? One where I've learned from my mistakes, the characters have all the basics but are now fleshed out, and the narrative and dialogue is gripping.

    What do you all think about this? Do you think it's a nice idea to go back to your previous work and try to make everything better, because it is your baby, after all? Or do you think that you should think of your first novel as an experiment: either a success and gets published, or simply something to look back on fondly and learn from, but not to re-use?

    Discuss. :)
     
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  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I have the same problem/issue - I wrote a book when I was 14? It took a couple years and it's a bloated behemoth at over 3,000 pages. But I can't let it go. My first instinct is it's so massive that I need to write a few books ( or publish some short stories ) before I can tackle it, which is the plan. Looking back it's not that the idea of the book doesn't have merit - it's just I wasn't at the place I am now in my writing. It's first draft doesn't even look like my messiest ramblings.

    I think one of the biggest problems with writing is finding enough passion and self discipline in a project to finish it. And if the passion is already there than that's like a go signal.

    Maybe though before you go gung-ho though, just try a scene out.
     
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  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have the same problem.. except I never actually finished my first book. lol I got the idea for it way back in 2009. But once I got about halfway through, I realized how terrible it was. So I scrapped what didn't work and started over. Halfway through version two, I realized THAT one sucked and did the same thing... lol So I'm on like version 9 of my book now. It's not even recognizable as the first book I started five years ago anymore.. But that's okay. I want this book to get published. And I want it to be perfect. =)
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Been there! My first novel was based upon a story I wrote when I was like 15 and for several years after that. Need I say that the first version sucked? The second version sucked a little less, but it was still rejected everywhere. Since then I've tried numerous rewrites and now the idea is totally worn out, I can't even look at it anymore. Any attempt to try again makes me sick of it. I did the best thing I could and recycled some of the characters (I was too fond of them to let them go), scrapped the mc and put these guys in another story (the one I'm currently writing). Why waste perfectly good, developed characters because the first idea was lame, childish and generally stupid? :)
     
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  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I think as a writer, you have to focus on what you really want to write. If you want to work on that novel, go for it. I think your best work comes when you really want to work on something specific.

    For me personally, I wrote a crappy first draft when I was around 18. It was a fantasy novel--I was really into that genre. Not so much now. I remember bugging people on this forum to help me out, give me advice and whatnot. I haven't gone back to it in years. I did print it out start to finish to go through it and edit it to death, but I found my heart directed elsewhere.

    My second attempt at a novel took place after 2 years in a writing program at my university. I learned so much about writing over that time and got a bunch of short stories published. Then I started writing something completely different. I loved it and thought it was amazing. I finished about half of the first draft and re-wrote it and put together a rough ending.

    And here I am, re-writing it again. I poured my heart and soul into it. Everything that's ever troubled me over the past 3 years is in my novel. It's something I really care about and want to improve, day by day.

    If you want to work on your first novel, by all means, work on it. It all depends on what you want, and what you feel will make you content. The very fact that you created a thread asking whether you should work on it suggests that's where your heart is, so I say go for it.

    I forget who said it, or what the quote was specifically, something like, "Grand ideas kill first efforts." If you really want to work on your novel that initially didn't go as planned, then you should definitely work on it.

    I hope my rant helps!
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I definitely agree you need the passion to get the first draft out, but I'm wondering about further drafts down the road, or in this case for an overhaul of an old work. Do you still want the same passion you had when you wrote the initial piece, or will results objectively be better if you can come back to it with a lot more reserve? After all, now you know the story, you've written it, the thrill is kind of gone, but maybe you can focus better on actually making the story truly readable?
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personal experience has taught me that revamping old novels, as nice and tempting as it sounds, never actually happens. Especially with first novels, they are so far gone in terms of being bad, plus there's no element of surprise for you as a writer. Trying to re-write them is just exercise in procrastination. My advice is to get over it, it isn't your baby, or if you insist on calling it that, then you need to love it for what it is (not all babies are pretty or perfect) and set about making another one.
     
  8. Passero
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    Passero Member

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    This all seems a bit discouraging for new writers as me.
    I have lots of ideas which, probably as most of you when you started out, sound great and that you want to develop.
    Reading all this about rewriting first novels and seeing how bad you were in the beginning, it makes me worried about using good ideas.
    Sometimes I think, I should park those ideas for when I'm a better writer because once I used those ideas, they're gone.

    Currently when I write, I can see something doesn't add up or doesn't work but I don't have the experience yet to fix it so I leave it.
    Probably in a few years time when I reread those passages I will probably say "oh man, you idiot".
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry about that. Actually it's possible that when you're more experienced, you'll realize they weren't such great ideas after all. ;) Plus that there are endless good ideas out there waiting to be written. So don't be afraid to write them as they show up.
    .
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  10. Juju Bagdasarian
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    Juju Bagdasarian Member

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    i believe thit is partially that you lack to see it as a third person , and less with your ability to write, there will always be mistakes and things that you could have done better no matter the expierience and that include all of us even if we write for years. :D

    i don't think it's a bad idea to revamp your first idea but just try not to be to emotionally atached to everything in it , spice up the story, add or/and remove some characters, that way it can become a totally new book that holds its core intact
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    In my case the story has shifted so much it's become almost an entirely different story. But I have to admit, I can't summon that vibe I had when I first wrote it. That time, that feeling is gone. I have to, like you said , bring something more to the project than just old passion - objectivity is definitely needed.

    Part of that is distinguishing what the problem with the story is before ditching it or going on with it - childish, clumsy idea or childish, clumsy execution.

    A clumsy narrative is easier to work with than a clumsy, childish idea.
     
  12. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for everyone's replies. It's made me realise that yes, I do still have passion for my book, and will hopefully make an attempt at it a few years down the line. Thanks, all! :D

    I understand that, but I'm not going to re-write it. I'm going to re-work it. It's going to be a completely new story, with possibly even the main character a decade or so older. I don't just mean it as a revamp, but more of a complete overhaul. :)

    And don't worry about this, @Passero! Tesoro is right; most of the time you'll find that the ideas you had weren't such great ideas. That may seem just as disappointing, but try to flip it on its head - you can save the real corkers for later, when your writing muscles are raring to go! Think of these early years as training for the race. :cool:
     
  13. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    If you're passionate enough about the story, then I'm sure you can make it work, and alter it to a publishable level. Yes, it may require a lot of work, but if you like the story enough, you'll be fine with that.

    Perhaps try other novels/short stories as a sort of exercise first? You may never even try to publish these stories, but they'll give you valuable experience and practice.
     
  14. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    I actually think that if this first book was your baby and you feel that strongly about it, then you need to give it another try. It is true that you can get too close to something (and too involved), but nothing great was ever accomplished without passion. While I have no doubt you could write something good with a neutral mindset (detaching yourself from everything else but the sense of it, etc. etc.), it would not be anywhere near as good as something you put your heart and soul into.

    Is it difficult to stand back and chop up something you dearly love? Yes. Will you spend many evenings banging your head on the keyboard or office wall? Probably. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Do what needs to be done to fix this, then go over and over it again. Nothing is impossible, but emotional investment goes a long way toward making it more likely:).
     
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  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand what you mean, and for a long time I was of the same opinion. But after numerous rewrites I finally realized that that first version was the best and truest one, and even though it was a little silly it was the way I imagined it at the time I wrote it and the one that intrigued me back then. And any more attempt to improve it, make it better/different would only bring me further away from the real story. So I decided to let it stay the way it was, inside my head, because like you say it was my baby and you can't change you baby, can you? it's the way it is and you only have to accept it. Maybe it will never become what you hoped for, but at some point, it doesn't matter anymore, because you love it anyway. :)
     
  16. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Yes, and I totally agree with this. If you feel that you have done it justice and are finished with it----that it has served its purpose---then you are right to let it go. Writing is a process, of course, and the steps taken toward its improvement are not necessarily linear, and they don't always make sense:(. If Thomas feels he is not finished with the piece and needs to work into it further, then by all means he should do it. Writing is subject to whims and impulses more than any other discipline, and though it is still important to work hard (and be rational and ruthless when necessary:) ), you should always start by listening to yourself.
     
  17. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    For the past two years, I kept trying to go back to my first novel, that I wrote at eighteen and nineteen... but I feel indifferent to it now, though with my new project, I guess that there will be some parts of the old implemented into it.

    So I guess that I didn't "quit" it as much as I thought after all.
     

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