When I first started writing I had no idea what I was doing. The idea overtook me and the book grew like a mutation, bubbling bigger and bigger but with no healthy structure to back it up. It was a monster but it was my monster so I kept feeding it. Every idea that came to my head I tried to slot in because I was writing a book and why else would these ideas be coming to me? Every joke got slid in, whether it fit or not and whether it worked with the continuity or not. I wrote and rewrote, building on what I’d done and trying to make it appealing. Chapters ended where it looked cool and there was so much swapping of characters that it got dizzy. And then I looked at my monster and thought it beautiful. I’d done what so many people before me hadn’t – I’d sat down to write a book and actually done it.
And then I took some time off. I wanted to flesh out some of the characters in the book a little more so I wrote some side stories about them. As these stories were shorter I didn’t have to keep going back over them and wrote them linearly where the main book had seen me bouncing from the end to the beginning to the middle and back again. I detailed the characters and gave them enough life that I would have to totally rewrite their parts in the main book. It was fine. I liked the idea of doing that as it would justify them being there a bit more.
When I came back to the main book I saw it for the monster it had become. It was still beautiful in some places and inspired in others, there was still plenty to love about the book, but it no longer fit my vision. As part of a trilogy it had too many elements in place making it top heavy, especially compared to the almost bare second part. And the fast jumping from character to character that I’d thought showed speed and action actually came across as an author who didn’t know how to write longer sections because that is exactly what it was. Somewhere along the line I’d decided on uniform chapter lengths and had shoehorned scenes together to try and get as close to that as possible.
My solution was to break the book (for the record I still have a copy of the files in their original order just in case this goes wrong) up into individual scenes and start again. I wrote a plan for the story that saw it broken into seven distinct parts and then plotted those parts out. The shorter scenes that had been broken by character changes were now merged and I would write connections between them so they read as one chapter. The heaviest side plot (totalling almost fifty pages) would be mostly moved into book 2, with enough hints left in this book to show how these things were affecting the world. And, of course, there would be major rewrites with the characters I’d given short stories to. In making this plan I had to change the timing of the book a little as one of the major events of the start no longer occurred. Night became day and vice versa in some parts and characters found a little more time for drama and introspection.
So far I’m a week into these rewrites and they’re going better than I’d imagined. I’m trying to do a chapter a day but am managing a little more at the moment and have up to chapter 9 done so far at a little over twenty thousand words. Chapters are ending more organically now and some of them are short while others are quite long. I’m also finding that sticking to one character or group for a whole chapter is giving me more room to show them off. Previously I’d show a scene and then jump away because I had no idea how to naturally transition to the next one, but now I’m finding that these transitions can simply be a line here or a few paragraphs there.
I’m really finding my style with this editing run, and I truly feel this will end up with the final version of this book when it’s done. So far it’s flowing a lot better and the humour works better now that I’ve cut a hell of a lot of it out. The drama has its moments but I haven’t gotten to the places where it really needs to sell itself. The mystery is coming along nicely too, although it’s always been an optional element of the story for the reader.
I’ve at least two dozen of my original format chapters to edit still but there’s no telling how many chapters that will end up as in the new way I’m writing this, especially as the character rewrites haven’t even begun yet. The new way I’m cutting chapters makes it hard to figure out how many I’ll end up with in total. I can tell you that of the seven parts I split the story into I’m still on part one and have at least two more chapters to do there. Some parts take less chapters to tell, and some may take more, but the length of those chapters will also vary. Some are major enough parts to need their own section even if they only have two or three chapters to them at the moment.
So yeah, rewriting is going well at the moment. I’ll drop a line at the end of each section of the story and let you all know what sort of progress I’m making and how well my monster is being shaped into a productive member of society… Hmmm, might be stretching that a bit too far there.