Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Ripped Apart My Beginning

                In the past few days, I completely ripped apart the beginning of my novel.

                I slashed away 1,700 words. I flung far-apart settings together and threw out some unsuspecting characters. I obliterated conversations from existence, and I even rejected that lovely, kind-of-symbolic bit that was going to echo throughout the series.

                And the beginning of my novel is so much better for it.

                You may have heard me mention my strategy for this rewrite is to NOT LOOK at the rough draft, ever, at all. You may have heard me complaining that despite this, the rough draft is still creeping in at times.

That was my problem with this beginning; the events were the same as they’d always been. It dragged (I need time to set up the characters!), there wasn’t enough tension (But the writing is so pretty here…), and by the time the inciting incident happened, my reader probably would have been bored.

I knew this. But for a long time I tried to squeak along, still using it, because it was the picture I’d always had in my head, and because I thought it looked cool the way I imagined it, and because I wanted it, despite the fact that it didn’t make sense in places. I wanted it. So I left it.

And then I read this post by Donald Maass at Writer Unboxed.

“Reverses, curves, twists, shocks…instead of saving them, start with them. Distrust your first ideas. Push toward what is unexpected and counter-intuitive.”

Read that post, guys.

Three minutes after I finished it, I’d rethought my beginning. I’d decided that instead of luring my main character to the Inciting Incident, I would drop the incident right into the middle of his school.

Now I’m wondering how I ever had it any other way.

I’m also guiltily prodding at the rest of my novel, which now seems inadequate in comparison…

But those are struggles for another blog post. :)
What writing breakthroughs have you had recently? What blog posts or books have really made you think about your novel? What sorely needed changes have you made, and which changes are you avoiding?


  1. DONALD MAASS IS A GOD AMONG MEN. I attended a writing conference earlier this year where he gave a speech/workshop, and he managed to both blow my mind and move me to tears. It was amazing, and just SO clear that this guy UNDERSTANDS STORYTELLING. I basically think his advice is writing gold, and I'm glad you've gotten it to work so well for you! :D


    Anyhoo, I've been pondering some novel rewrites too, so this is helpful stuff to be keeping in mind. :-) Thanks for posting!

    1. No problem. ^^ And yeah, I really need to dive in and read ALL his blog posts, because everything I've heard is amazing. :)

  2. Normally I try not to rewrite as I go along because then I get bogged down in misery about how much everything SUCKS, but my WIP has been tweaked and retweaked so much lately. Mostly because of other people's constructive abuse, but also because I realised that I was doing the exact thing that I was trying to avoid in terms of plot and clichés. Bits of it were painful, but my story's so much the better for it now.

    1. I'm rewriting a bit, as the ideas come. Hard to say if I'd be getting closer to the end of the rewrite if I just left things as is for now...

      At the same time, some things I've changed have been relatively major, as they click into place. If I just kept going without tweaking to fit the new idea, I'd have SO much work left at the end? *shudder*

  3. This blog post just hit the spot... I recognised myself in everything you said. Whenever I rewrite my story, I sit with the 1st draft and rework my way into it, but inevitably, I end up going back to the first draft.

    Lately.. I've started working in scenes. Since I can't seem to get a book out of my head, one scene at a time is really helping and I'm finding myself reaching for my notebook more and more often :)

    1. It's crazy how things can stick. I haven't looked at my rough draft in like, YEARS. But I remember whole paragraphs and descriptions I used to like, and they RE-EMERGE. LIKE ZOMBIES.


      Working scene by scene helps. XD