rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Funny, I go weeks without thinking of anything I want to blog about, and then suddenly today I've had at least three questions/situations buzzing through my mind that I want to ask you about. Yes, you. Anybody reading this? I do love to hear from you.

Let's focus on one thing today. This question is for writers: any kind of writer. I know I'm read by real professional published writers EVERY so often, and that might be MOST helpful, but I'll be happy with the thoughts of hobbyists, also. The question is: where do you begin when revisiting and possibly redoing a previous work-in-progress?

This is a silly question, when I think about it. Of all writing skills, this is what I have the MOST EXPERIENCE WITH. I've spent most of my writing career from the time I was about 14 not writing first drafts, but REWRITING stories I'd written before: "Hey, this story I wrote when I was 11 is pretty bad, but it's got some good bits, so I think I'll write it again KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW!" That particular story-- the one I first wrote when I was 11-- has been rewritten completely (not counting smaller revisions and edits) at least 3 times, and though in the past few years I've given up on it, some nostalgia made me send it to [ profile] elouise82 a few months ago on the off-chance she'd have any idea whether any of it is still salvageable. Basically, asking the very question I'm asking here, except NOW I'M OPENING IT UP BROADLY AND MORE GENERALLY. And thinking about a different story entirely.

This one I wrote for the first time (well, six chapters worth) in 11th grade. I've mentioned it. It started from some flights of fancy my best friends and I took off on during a sleepover. It starred the boy I had a crush on as a spy, the three of us as heroic and/or brilliant journalists and/or poets, many teachers and classmates as, in most cases, villains, and George Harrison's Imaginary (because we made him up) Nephew Billy, who turned out to be a superhero.

Ten years ago I decided to rewrite it, to make it less of a private joke and more of an actual book. I tweaked the characters-- while still inspired by real character traits in real people, they became fully formed and individual characters of their own. I structured the plot. I worked on it for the Institute of Children's Literature's bookwriting course. It got to a This May Be Finished sort of point. But it wasn't perfect. The tone was uneven. The plot was implausible. I messed around with the opening chapters awhile. Bruce Coville read one of these first-chapter rewrites at an SCBWI conference and made my year by liking it, and giving good advice about what I needed to change. Trying to figure out how to solve those issues, I decided to do a complete and total rewrite AGAIN. But I did less than one chapter of a rewrite before I gave up.

But you've heard me, the past two years. I've all but given up on writing entirely. And any more, if I DID make myself get back in the habit, I don't know what's worth WORKING on in the first place.

Today, during yoga class, all meditative and centered during savasana, I started thinking about the characters in that book. Billy and Hannie and Ashlynn and Ian. These very real, very developed, very alive inside-my-head characters. I still don't know what the heck to do with their story, but there's something ABOUT how they popped into my head today right when I was at my most-holistically-healthiest. I really DO need to tell their story. I'm just still not sure how their story WORKS.

I don't know where to go, if I should keep pursuing the Complete Rewrite I started, and if I do how much of the original plot points I want to keep, or if I should go off in a completely different direction (whatever that could BE)-- it was hard enough coming up with the FIRST plot. I'm so in the habit of NOT TRUSTING MY ABILITIES that figuring out what I need to do with it all feels out of my reach. In the end, maybe I don't really know what question I'm asking here. Maybe I have no idea what advice I think I need. I just have these characters I care about and don't know what to do with. How do you KNOW when a story needs to be completely scrapped? How do you say goodbye to characters that still haunt you with their Realness when you just don't know what to DO with them?

Maybe I'm just still too scared to write.

Date: 2013-02-08 04:58 am (UTC)From: [identity profile]
For what it's worth, I read both the original manuscript and then the re-written beginning - and I thought your rewrite was MUCH stronger. I should look it over again...

Something I love about your writing is that you write characters with unlikeable traits (like Ashlynn) in a way that doesn't make me dislike reading about them.

Edited Date: 2013-02-08 05:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-02-08 04:52 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
Something I love about your writing is that you write characters with unlikeable traits (like Ashlynn) in a way that doesn't make me dislike reading about them.

This may be the single nicest thing anyone has ever said about my writing. That's what I'm aiming for! To show how everyone is faulty and yet still loveable.

I actually started writing a REALLY re-written rewrite. No party-destroyed-by-hitmen, no Ian-playing-dead... yet, that might happen again at some point, but it DID add complications I was struggling with (particularly in keeping the tone even). That's the one I'm not sure how to pursue. I haven't typed up what I've got, yet. I should, and then I'll share it.

Date: 2013-02-08 03:29 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I don't ever give up on a story, even when it's cliched and horrible and really more like fanfiction thinly disguised as original fic (OK, I lie - the story I started when I was ten about the small made-up creature who went off on an adventure with a dozen dwarfs, that one I tossed). I file all of them away because you just never know when something from one or two of them might light a spark in your mind for something better.

As for your immediate problem - how are you with character sketches? Do you think it would help to just start writing about your characters, without giving them a story or plot to worry about? Or short stories, little mini-adventures? Or take a real-world situation and insert them into it - what do they think about ___ (fill-in-the-blank)?

I am very excited for you that you are starting to feel your creative juices flowing again. Even if it's just a trickle right now - I am encouraged for you!

Date: 2013-02-08 05:06 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
*hee!* Yeah, in a way I guess I do keep everything as a potential spark for something more-- I keep thinking the first "book" I wrote when I was seven could be reworked into a weird-but-plausible picture book illustrated by Adam Rex (I would demand Adam Rex as an illustrator. I can just SEE his style on it. Assuming he wouldn't hate it) even (I just READ about a new picture book that's out which the author wrote the first draft of when she was 5)!-- Maybe what's hanging me up about this one is that I've been actively trying to make something of it for so long that I'm not sure if the problems even HAVE answers.

I WAS thinking of giving them smaller adventures. I've done things like that before (the link up there labelled "George Harrison's Imaginary Nephew Billy" being one!). I have daydreamed them in other situations many times. I think my problem is, well, Billy's a superhero. He can't NOT be a superhero because that's who he is. Therefore, he needs a proper superhero-worthy plot, which is the sort of plot you can't just let-the-characters-go-and-see-what-they-do, but you need the bad guys to make that first move, like. What am I talking about, anyway. I struggle with making plots that are anything as interesting as I'd like them to be!

Thank you for the support! You two (talking to Emily above, too!) are such great writing friends.


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