I’ll shed a tear now and say a fond farewell to the words on the page as they once were. This is the moment of silence, the time of memories. Ah, sweet words, how lovely ’twas to know you.
Alas, I’m kicking your arse out the windae. Why? That’s right.
Back to the Drawing Board, Kinda, Sorta
Last week I was fighting a messed up wrist (my writing hand, naturally) and not getting very good sleep. I was working on getting one of my current WIPs finished, trying to stick to my plan to get it done within the next week. So, of course, my brain thought it was the PERFECT time to smack me over the head with the outline for Descent.
I denied it once.
It came back with a cast-iron frying pan.
I denied it twice.
It came back with a sledgehammer.
I thought of denying it thrice, but was reminded that I had enough physical malfunctions to deal with. So I gave in. Originally the plan was to wait until I got a couple projects done – one romance, one YA fantasy – but it’s just as well. I’d like to turn the novel around before the year’s end so starting now is opportune. For a few months, I’ve known what I have to do to get Descent going. It exists as a first draft currently, but it needs love. I knew it needed rewrites in order to make it match its predecessor, Ascension. I figured I’d just go back over all the scenes and extra tidbits I had stored and whip up a simple outline, then zoom through the rewrites and edits.
Oh. My. God. NOPE. Nope, nope, nope.
Cue the next tear.
In going over everything, I’ve realized just how much the manuscript needs rewrites. And when I say rewrites, I mean writing nearly every single scene from scratch. The overall ideas will remain but practically all the words are going to be turned over and changed around. That’s about 100,000 words gone. Why? Three words.
Perspective and style.
And to get really succinct, I can cut it down to just one: consistency.
Lessons In Being a Writer: Yielding to the Necessary Evils
I’ve been overcoming bad writing habits. I don’t know where they first developed, especially since my writing in high school wasn’t half bad. But somewhere along the way, during the time when I was focused on post-secondary education, I developed terrible habits. Then they made their way into Ascension. After that, they made their way into the first drafts for the rest of the series because I started working on the future bits at the same time as the first installment.
Then I committed myself to relearning the writing craft and discovered my grievous errors, the most prominent of which has been head-hopping. Or, if you prefer, shifting POVs in the same scene.
All of which has to go.
Thankfully I managed to fix all of that in Ascension, but now I have to set my sights on the rest of the series. And that’s fine. I accept that. That’s not as much as problem as it could be. I knew that’s what I’d have to do during rewrites. I’m cool with that.
It’s the change in style that’s now killing me.
That’s what I learned during one night of analyzing scenes to create the outline for book #2. I had written the scenes at a time when I was still “finding myself”, and my style hadn’t been pinned down quite like it is now. Book 1 went through editing round after editing round, where I was cutting the crap out and really just getting to things. Book 2 hasn’t received that attention yet.
And so it comes down to this: to make the second book match the first, everything’s being torn down to build it up.
Oh, consistency. How we love thee.
But there’s the lesson to be had here. Working on a series is awesome. It can be exhilarating, fun, and a hilarious ride. But let’s not forget to get real: things change. We change. Sometimes we have to learn to accept – as begrudgingly as we may – that the best job we can do is go back to the beginning and do it all over. So while I may be bitching and moaning over waving most of the current 100k goodbye, the reality is I’ll be sucking it up and just doing it. All authors should strive to put out work that’s at at the top level. Clean, consistent, clear. As much as we’d love to zip through a manuscript and throw it out there, we need to step back and be critical of our work, then push it further towards a 100% hater-proof version. We may never get that 100%, but 99% is better than nothing.
So, to all the members of my literary family: if you’ve ever found yourself in the same position, my sympathies. And to all those who have persevered despite the little twisting knife in your heart: good on you. I hate the saying “pain is gain”, but in this case, sometimes it really is… assuming we’re cutting out the bad and keeping the good. That’s where beta readers and editors are as precious as gold, for Indie writers and Big 5 alike… a totally different story for a rather different day.
But I’m interested in hearing your stories of heartache and flirting with the necessary evils in the literary craft. So go on, lay them out. Tell me more, tell me more!