Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

Fear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year ๐Ÿ™
I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here. Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

  • I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix andย Finishย with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.
  • Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.
  • Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it ๐Ÿ™‚

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Thanks for reading.


8 Comments on How to stay sane while rewriting

    • Thanks, Diana, I’m glad you found it helpful as you navigate the rewriting process. I can’t believe how hard it all is ๐Ÿ™ Still, slow and steady. Good luck with it all.

  1. My partner is facing a similar struggle with his master’s thesis; I suggested he put it aside and work on something else for a while. That sounds like your decision to pick up your NaMoWriMo novel again; I hope that change of focus works for you.

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. It has helped to take my mind off my WIP by rereading my Nano novel from last year and hopefully, that will continue until I’m finished!

  2. I think there’s probably too much information these days. When I started writing, hardly anybody even had the internet, so I just wrote, how I thought it should be. I wrote without blog posts, and without Twitter! I still don’t take any notice of what you ‘should’ do. I know I writing posts with advice for new writers so that might seem a bit hypocritical (!!) but you may notice that I write very little about the actual writing itself; that’s up to the individual.
    I went to the Newcastle Writers Conference last year, at which there were many publishers and editors. One person asked what they thought of such things as doing an MA in creative writing, and they all laughed; a couple of them said you could always tell the submissions from people who’d done courses, as they were all very correct, with no adverbs, suspense being built at just the right time, rather formulaic. Of course you can gather advice here and there from people, and improve what you have, but I think it’s good to just do what feels right for YOU. You learn by doing it, anyway. When you read back a novel you wrote six months before, you can usually see what’s wrong with it!
    I hope yours goes very well, and shapes up how you want it !! xx ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks for your message, Terry and for taking the time to read my blog. I would definitely agree that there is almost too much writing advice these days! I have written about this already because as a new writer, it makes it very difficult to know what to do sometimes. Perhaps when we’ve done it all once, we’ll be more confident about what to do but when you’re writing a synopsis for the first time for example, it can feel like your mind is about to explode!
      I have certainly learnt a lot by just doing it and been pleasantly surprised for the most part at the positive feedback I’ve received. I don’t think any new writer is prepared though for just how hard it is to write a novel ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m not afraid of the hard work but I have plenty of other insecurities about writing, along with most others I think. I want to do it though and that’s what keeps me going ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Just think of it this way, Julie – all those books you’ve enjoyed in your life were written without any writing advice blogs; they wrote how it felt right for them, and you should, too! You’ve probably read enough now, by the sound of it – I’d say, don’t read any more!
        Don’t worry about the synopsis now – finish the book first! I agree, they’re devils – I spent two hours getting a really short one right last night! When it comes to that point you can always run it past me if you want – although I’m not trad pubbed (oh, one day!), I’ve had whole manuscripts called in by agents (the next huge step after submitting!!!!), so I guess my synopses must have been okay!
        The best thing is that you’re not afraid of the hard work – it isn’t work, anyway, really, is it?? ๐Ÿ˜€ And as for the insecurities – there is not a writer alive who doesn’t have them. Seriously. Even Kate Atkinson, Douglas Kennedy, whoever!

        • Hello again, Terry,
          Thanks so much for this message. It made me feel great to read it! You’re right that I probably have read more than enough now so I should just get on with it to the best of my ability. I think it’s inexperience really. It would just be so wonderful to have a tried and tested way of doing it all when you’re new to something ๐Ÿ˜‰
          Unfortunately, I need to do the synopsis for some comps I want to enter and I also need one for the RNA when I submit my ms at some point so I need to get on with it. Thank you so much for offering to read it for me, I really appreciate that, knowing how busy you must be but I would value your advice. So I will take you up on that when I finish it (!)
          Thanks again for the pep talk, I really appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚

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