Starting over, a novel approach

Hey all,

So, I’ve got a huge, slightly scary, but mostly super exciting announcement to make.

Are you ready?

I’m going to re-write Machine.

What? That’s crazy! I’ve been working on it forever!

Yeah, I know.

But the problem is, for the longest time, I’ve been working backwards. Terrible first draft aside (kind of hard to miss that step), first I was polishing, then in stages I started making small changes, then larger ones, and even larger ones until now where I’m finally willing to admit that maybe the bones I’ve been trying to jam together for so long just aren’t meant to work that way. And I’ll admit that’s kind of frustrating (and significantly more embarrassing for as much as I’ve run my mouth about my little monster), but now that I’m starting to let go of it a bit more, now that I’m more willing to admit I was wrong and to let God and the advice of others in, it’s actually getting a lot more exciting, not only because I’m rediscovering the potential of something that I’ve increasingly been seeing as hopeless, but also because I’m finding some of the bones that do stick together (and where some of the other ones that don’t might actually go).

And it’s great.

So, if you’re looking at a massive rewrite like me, what does that actually look like?

Well, let me tell ya. Basically, (or at least at a first stab since this kind of edit is still new to me) I’m actually doing my work in order.

First, I’m going to do world-building. That’s the stage I’m in right now, figuring out weather, politics, education, creatures, etc. I’ve made some progress on this front already. Several problems I’ve had basically since the beginning have started to shift and crack, others resolving completely. I’ve also made some surprising discoveries, both about the world itself and the characters that live in it. Honestly, though it’s been daunting sometimes, it’s also been really fun. I used to be afraid of locking anything into solid fact because I was so worried about getting it wrong, so afraid someone would question me and I’d have to change things (if you’ve ever had to deal with my unwillingness to edit before, I am so sorry. I’m getting better!), but now I’m really discovering how much fun research can be. It’s exciting to see how these different aspects can lock into place, and even though it doesn’t always work like I’d initially expected or hoped, it’s also been fun to start deconstructing story elements I’ve (sometimes needlessly) clung to, to ask the important questions about how things relate to make sure this story becomes the best it can be, which brings me to my next point, which is…

…taking a good look at my plot. Before I plunge ahead with a rewrite, I want to take time to think about what this story really is, what it is I’m really trying to say. God is helping me a lot with that (when I listen, which is still hard), and I’m trying to take the time, though I’ll admit I’m not super far on this one yet. I am asking a lot of questions though, and taking advantage of some advice I just read from Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird. Speaking about the first stories we tell, she says, “Beginners … always write blatantly about themselves…even if they make the heroine of their piece a championship racehorse with an alcoholic mother who cries a lot.”

And while Machine certainly hasn’t been about either of those two things specifically, it is a lot about my story (something I’ve mentioned before on this blog), my testimony, and when I consider that, it helps me to figure out not just what Machine is about, but where I want it to go, where I want to go. Because the fact of the matter is, if you’re writing about yourself and your main character gets hit by a bus or winds up a hermitic alcoholic, that doesn’t bode well for your own personal outlook, and as I’ve been looking at how Machine reads, I’ve been finding more and more telling things about how I perceive myself, especially when I look at the arc of it over time. And that’s not to say that I’m going to make this truly autobiograpical, even in an allegorical sense, but as I keep pushing towards more love, compassion, grace and especially hope for myself and others–especially the others I want to reach with this book, I think it’s going to show.

The other half of this step is to take a close look at my structure, what works and what doesn’t. Machine was the second-ish book that I wrote, the first in even more dire need of a rewrite, so I’ve learned a lot about plot in the books I’ve written since then. I’ve also heard a lot more from other authors, agents, etc., on what publishers are looking for, and gotten feedback that I think I’m finally ready to start taking into account. I’ve started taking better notes with my critique group and will soon be ready to get feedback from them on the whole thing (well, a few months down the road, but soon for the book publishing world, haha). I’m also considering taking some classes, or at least getting some extra books from the library about things like structure, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Step three is going to be, rather obviously, writing it. I don’t know yet if it’s going to be a full re-write or if there are going to be pieces I’m going to be able to keep, but hopefully after steps one and two I’ll have a clearer picture.

After that, I’m going to take a look at it, see what needs to be fixed, fix it (rinse and repeat those maybe a couple of times), and then polish and scrub. You know, all of the steps I’ve already been doing out of order for the last eight or nine years, haha.

So, I’m not sure yet how long all of this is going to take. Life has been crazy, and though I’d like to say I’m going to be determined enough to plow through this all by next spring (or at least have a first draft), I just don’t know that that’s true, and with another book or two that are not in such desperate need of makeovers, I might be switching gears to start working on them while Machine takes a backseat to simmer. As ever, time and the Lord will tell.

In the meantime, I’m going to be working on some short stories, gathering feedback, researching, working on some other projects (like Twice Born!), and of course, blogging. As to the rest, we’ll find out! Tally-ho!

So, do you have any advice? Any times you’ve had to start over or do a lot of back work on a big project? What did that look like? How did you do it? Did you have other things that inspired you or kept you going on the way? Tell me all about it below and if you’re not already subscribed, follow me here, on Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch.

Thank you!




6 thoughts on “Starting over, a novel approach

  1. Kim Morrison March 31, 2017 / 7:03 am

    Sounds like you have a plan and the energy and tenacity to complete it!

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