If you’ve hung around this site for any length of time, then you’ve probably noticed that I am in the middle of revising and rewriting my first novel. Now, I’ve never done this before. I’ve edited lots of short fiction, and other folks’ writing, but never something as time consuming and soul-shredding as my own novel.
I want to chronicle this adventure. I need to. This is a very reflective and solitary process, and I think best in writing. So, I need to write down my thoughts, ideas, and concerns. But, I also want to catalog my successes and my missteps.
The natural conclusion is to blog about it! I hope you don’t mind.
The original first draft of Vessels was completed in 2013. It was 47,000 words, too short even for the YA category, especially since it’s a fantasy novel. It was accidentally YA, but that didn’t bother me. I was willing to work with it. After letting it sit for months, I read it through and was pleasantly surprised.
It had issues; what first draft doesn’t? But, I liked it. I liked enough that I thought it had hope. That it was worth working on. I printed the manuscript out and promptly put it on a shelf to sit while I wrote my second novel.
Years later I finally took Vessels down from the shelf, reread it, and began the chore of editing it the best way I knew how. Which is to say, incorrectly. I approached it as I had all my previous editing tasks: close reading, circling problem areas with weak writing, and tightening it up. Line editing. Not content.
I did my best, noted where content wasn’t working, but didn’t really know how to address it. I did my edits, gave it a new name (The Steel Armada) and sent off Draft 2 to willing Beta readers.
I really must thank them for their encouragement and patience as they waded through that mess of a manuscript.
They all had similar feedback, which was good. “Val’s motivations are unclear”, “the world isn’t real enough”, “I like the characters”, “dialogue is good”, etc. Fantastic feedback, detailed and concrete. My Betas were saints.
I accepted their criticism, acknowledged it as truth, and promptly put the project away again. This time to start school and slowly work on a third novel (still “in progress”, by the way).
And then last year I decided that I really wanted to work on my second novel’s revisions. But I refused to do that without finishing The Steel Armada first. I thought it deserved at least that much, and that I could use the practice before turning my attention to a project I thought had more potential.
I also met Madhu last year, and we began our weekly exchange of pages for critique. Each week I diligently sent her my pages, read hers, and then filed away her feedback on mine for later consideration. I avoided the project, pretty much for the whole year. It daunted me, intimidated me completely, and with the year I had I simply didn’t have the energy to overcome that.
2018 – The Year of “Focus”
All of that changed at the beginning of this year. You might have noticed that I’m really big on goals. I like setting them, I like talking about them, and I really like reaching them. So, I had some tough conversations with myself and made the call. 2018 would be the year I finish The Steel Armada.
So, I reread the manuscript again. I still liked it, though I found even more issues that would need my attention. I slogged through chapters, taking Madhu’s feedback into consideration, and had some knock down, drag out fights with the writer I was five years ago.
Turns out I really hate revising. Like, really hate it. I have to reward myself for each chapter completed, give myself some sort of incentive to sit down and torture myself with a manuscript I was so far away from that I didn’t really know how to begin fixing it.
I was resigned to working on it, determined to do endless battle with my former self via the time capsule of my manuscript.
And then I went to the OWC Writers Conference and had fresh life breathed into Val’s story. I came back more excited about the project than I had been since I wrote the first draft. I sat down to the task with new insight, new ideas, and so much enthusiasm.
And as I hacked my way through paragraphs I realized that what really held the story back was how small scale my original setting was. It was too small. No one could flourish there, my ideas were good beginnings but hadn’t grown into what they really could be. And the best way to fix that was to completely re-imagine the world.
Which means completely rewriting the book.
I was in denial. For about a day. I told myself that was ridiculous, just do the revisions and get on with my life. But I knew, that damn quiet and persistent voice in my head knew, that if I put in the work and made The Steel Armada the best book it could be then it wouldn’t have to be relinquished to the role of “learning experience”.
If I sit my ass in the chair and sweat over the keyboard for the rest of the year, The Steel Armada will be a novel I’m proud of. A novel I can stand behind. A novel worth publishing.
So, here I am, eleven chapters into my revisions admitting to myself that a complete rewrite is honestly the best course of action. And maybe I’ll find the right title for it somewhere in there while I’m at it.
And that brings you up to date on how editing is going in 2018.
A Look at the Stats
- Added 8,590 words to Draft 3 since 1/1/18
- Cut one character and expanded another
- Extensive world building including expansion of religion and socioeconomic systems
- Improved character development, fleshed out backstories and motivations
- Added 3,861 words since 5/1/18
- Extensive world building, including economy, religion, technology; more to come
- Added another character, impact remains to be seen
- Main character voice is a bajillion times stronger, all characters feel stronger, more fleshed out and distinct than previous incarnations
Of course, the downfall of a complete rewrite is that I have no idea what will cross over from the previous draft and what will crop up in the new one. There are already some serious question marks plot-wise that will need some deep thinking to resolve, but that’s true of all new drafts for me.
I’m a Pantster, that wild breed of writer that has no idea where they’re going until they get there. Okay, I do some minimal outlining, and by minimal I mean, “Val goes to X place and talks to X person. They argue.”
So, now I’m basically drafting with the vague skeleton of the book that came before. It’s utterly foreign to me, but really nice so far. I have a general idea of how the book will play out, while frolicking in a whole new setting.
And I am having a great time, as evidenced by my word count since Tuesday. Almost 4k words? That’s pretty intense. And it feels great! Now to keep this momentum going.
What are the Goals?
Hmm. As of this sitting, the only hard and fast goal is a minimum of 500 words a day. I am ahead of that schedule right now, but I’m still sitting down to work on the new draft each day. I’m going to add a bit right after I post this and see where that takes me.
I wanted to edit ten chapters before I posted my first “Check-In”, which I did. But, I’m not sure I should wait that long before my next update. Maybe each 10k words? That way I’ll check in every few weeks. The posts would be considerably shorter too, since there shouldn’t be quite so much to talk about. Let’s go with that.
I’ll have another Editing Check-In when I cross the ten thousand word mark. I don’t think I’ll be back again this week, but I will post again on Monday as usual, and I have the Cold Days review still in the works. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgot!
Until then, Blogland,