1. Jak of Hearts

    Jak of Hearts Active Member

    Dec 22, 2013
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    Topeka, Kansas

    Experiences with breaking down old story to write a new one

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jak of Hearts, Apr 9, 2015.

    Ok, so I realize there are pros and cons to what I am doing, and I don't need the standard answer of "Do whatever you feel is best." What I'm looking for is experiences other people have had in similar situations and if it turned out good, if they regretted it, etc.

    What happened is about a year ago and poured hours and hours into writing a full length novel (roughly 72k words). I spent months submitting it to publishing companies and got no real interest. After working on some other projects, I am now back to writing again. I really have no particular interest in reviving this story, but instead I want to write a new one. What I really want is to create a new story with the characters and world that I used before. Altogether I think this sounds great because it will give me a new story yet allow me to use the characters that I'm deeply fond of already and have great histories. The downside with it is that if I rip these characters out and place them into a new story, the first story I wrote will become useless. I would never again be able to try and publish it without rewriting nearly the entire thing. It just feels scary, knowing that if I continue, this book that I poured months into will never be publishable... but will I really ever go back and finish it anyway?
  2. stevesh

    stevesh Banned Contributor

    Mar 17, 2008
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    Mid-Michigan USA
    Probably not, but so what? Write the new book and see if there's any more interest in it. You may be able to rewrite the first book later if the second one is accepted.
    BayView, matwoolf and peachalulu like this.
  3. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Did you get any feedback from your publishing companies as to why they weren't interested?

    And ...have you already started developing your new ideas with your old characters and world?

    If you've already started working up a new story, I'd say to get on with doing it and see what develops. You might end up later on liking your new story better. Or you might feel motivated to go back to re-working your old one. Because neither has been published yet, you still have free rein with what you do.

    Have you had any feedback about your original story? If not, it is a great idea to get some. If there is something 'wrong' with it, you can maybe get motivated to fix it, but you'll onlly be able to do that once you recognise the problem, if there is one. I'm picking up the feeling that you're not all that pleased with your story, actually. Only that you don't want to waste the time you spent writing it by just throwing it away. If you've truly lost interest in it, it's probably best to move on.

    I can't imagine not wanting to stick with my own story till I got it perfect, and I can't imagine walking away from it. However, my present story, which I'm now formatting for Kindle took 5 years to write the first draft, and has taken more than twice that long to get it to its final form. MANY beta readers have had a go, and I've taken on board all sorts of suggestions.

    Maybe you went for publication too soon? If you haven't had feedback ...from as many people as possible ...that's a step you should certainly take.
    peachalulu likes this.
  4. Lancie

    Lancie Senior Member

    Oct 20, 2014
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    I have. The main piece I'm writing now is something I have been writing for a long time and it started out completely different. I've switched the era it's set in, the location, the characters, the MCs have had a gender change but the core story is the same. I love what I'm writing now and am happy I made the changes. In the end, I just had to go with my gut and it felt right. I wanted to try new things from a different perspective. I didn't completely destroy my old story for a long time, I lifted some bits here and there but ultimately I didn't need most of them in the end. I'm currently at 35'000-ish words and am starting to spoon feed the odd chapter to someone.

    I wouldn't say it was scary for me because I knew it wasn't completely working, but then I'm nowhere near the point of even thinking about publishing. The story and my characters evolved (cheesy, but true). It's all part of the editing process- take what works and come at it from a different angle.

    But as Jannert said, it would be interesting to know whether or not you got any feedback.
  5. Jack Asher

    Jack Asher Banned Contributor

    Sep 4, 2013
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    This is exactly the conditions under which To Kill a Mocking Bird was published. Lee's agents and publisher felt that the flashbacks in Scout's narrative made a more compelling story and asked her to write a prequel.

    The "sequel" that they are trying to publish now, is the work that the publisher rejected, and it's unlikely that if Lee was still completely cogent she would have authorized its publication.
  6. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I've sort of done this. I wrote a book minus the last chapter. I wasn't satisfied with the technique I used ( diary format ) and it's bloated length. But I liked the characters of a cynical school teacher who has a nervous breakdown and a cynical child who helps his breakdown along. So I took them and put them in a noir-ish style story - altering their names. I still want to complete both stories and hopefully plan to - my to-write list is as long as my to-read list.

    In the end though, circumstances/goals should change the characters enough so that they might be similar readers won't care. Anyone ever read a Joy Fielding novel? - all her heroines are practically the same woman just different circumstances.

    If this is some of your first writing I'd say go ahead. I think there are writers whose first works are publishable but many more writers whose first works are more practice pieces. Good for building a voice and seeing patterns in your work. The bones - the characters and ideas might be good which is why I don't mind scavenging the bones of past stories - it could just be the execution was off.

    Also, I wouldn't be too concerned with putting in time over stories that won't see the light of day. I have about 3 novels that won't. It goes with the territory of anything creative. Producing things that might not sell. That's why you should always write for yourself first ( but never discount your readers. )
  7. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2009
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    My current project, a novel, is constantly being revised and rewritten, story plots, arcs and characters change as I develop as a writer. I see this as just part of editing. It's not how everyone works, but I write like I would if on a typewriter. I sort of start the project again.
    matwoolf likes this.
  8. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

    Jan 3, 2011
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    A place with no future
    I've actually done that, quite recently. I picked the characters from my very first novel, because I was very fond of them after numerous attempts to write that story without any success, and placed them in a totally different story but basically in the same world (ok, it was not fantasy). I published it as a novella in the beginning of this year. Now, I'm going back to the old story, trying to rewrite it completely with NEW CHARACTERS and quite a different plot, even though it is basically about the same thing. I think it's a good choice. That somehow casting new characters for the same story will make me get out of the box of old ideas and see how it could work. The old one never would have made it. This version might stand a chance. :)
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I've turned a short story into a novel. Ended up changing pretty much everything but the characters and a central idea.

    If you've already subbed your novel and gotten no interest, and you don't want to work on it any more to make it more sellable, it's not going to get published anyway, right? So... what's the harm in cannibalizing it?

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