Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Da Capo

So something happened last year.

I queried a novel. I poured my heart and soul into the query, and revised like a mad maniac. But deep down, some part of me knew that something wasn't quite right.

The query got great results. The manuscript...well, it left something to be desired, and I couldn't quite put my finger on what that was. One agent, to whom I'm forever indebted for just this one word of critique, called it "quiet." I pulled it from the query-go-round after only a handful of queries, when an agent of awesome gave me some super suggestions and an offer to look at the revisions. I wanted to make those revisions. I didn't want to be out there with anything other than the very best thing I could put out there.

But instead of diving in, I put it aside, and started working on another novel (and got derailed from writing for a whole host of reasons that have a lot to do with a big famous book and that I don't want to complain about here). Along the way, I found that something felt more natural about the way new novel was going, something that made first novel feel inorganic. So as I got partway through new novel, I went back to old novel.

And then I came back to it. With fresh eyes, a new perspective, and that little, niggling word.


This week I'm up for critique in my writers' group, and I knew I wanted to give them the revision of my first chapter. Except it isn't a revision, so much as an evisceration. To produce it, I didn't start with an open document, or with the first scene open in a second window in Scrivener. To produce this, I started again with a blank page, a sense of where the story was going, and a character whose story I feel needs to be told.

In music, you get the instruction to "Da Capo," which literally means "to the head," and in short form means, "Return to the beginning." Returning to the beginning is scary. You have to do it again, but you have to do it again with a fresh interpretation, in a way that doesn't bore you.

In writing, if you return to the beginning, it's because something about the beginning failed the first time. You're putting a new spin on it, moving the music around, changing the beats, changing the dynamics. In writing, if you return to the beginning, you're doing far more than just a simple repeat.

But when I returned to the beginning this month, I found that my character was still there, funny as ever, with new insights and a great voice. At the suggestion of one of my writers' group CPs, I gave him a new piece to play, both literally (he's a pianist) and figuratively. A piece that is more forceful, more dynamically interesting, more in-your-face.

In short, it's louder. And I'm loving every minute of putting it down on paper.

This month, I went back to the beginning. To play it all again.

And it's fun.

Have you done a full rewrite of a book? What's it like? Why did you do it? And how did it turn out? 


  1. Yes

    Let's not talk about it

    I did it because my main character was self unlikeable and unsympathetic. To put it plainly a bitch.

    Also I got an R&R

    It took me 6 months to understand that this rewrite needed to happen. I spent 6 months revising a draft that was BAD and everybody knew it including me and everybody didn't like the main character INCLUDING me but I didn't know how to fix her.

    This where in my story I say thank god for new eyes. With new betas in arm, I realized my problem. My MC's voice. With that I sucked in my breath and rewrote my entire novel.

    How has it turned out? well I just gave back the R&R and am waiting to hear. 3 people have requested the full since then and 2 partials. Here's to hoping many more will too...


    1. Girl, you are my INSPIRATION for the book overhaul, and I know great things are coming your way. Good luck to you, too. I can't wait for the day we get to celebrate your good news.

  2. Wow. I'm there with my second MS. I haven't looked at it in months and it was time to make everything the way it should be to publish soon, and I was so frustrated with the beginning because it just didn't feel right. I went to bed last night thinking, okay, tomorrow I will know the problem. And that is what I felt this morning. It was TOO QUIET! The MCs voice wasn't there. She was telling a story as though she was--forgive me for forgetting his name, Ben something???... the CLEAR EYES guy--and that's not how most of the MS is! I too am rewriting the beginning. I know her now, so this perspective and her voice will shine through more than ever. I know this.

    From one Jessica to another... I'd say we're on the right track. :D

    1. Yay for "loud!" Isn't it astounding what happens to your books when you think about voice?

      Good luck with your rewrite, and Jessicas unite! :)

  3. Hi Jessica: Yes, I've done a full rewrite. I decided I liked 3rd person instead of 1st and started all over. I loved the finished product. I did several rewrites. It is fun. I remember my first lesson and redoing something. I cried the first time I had to rip out a seam when making my first piece of clothing. My teacher took it from me and helped. I resewed the apron with pockets and it came out perfect. She showcased in her window. I was proud and remembered that lesson for the rest of my life. It may have been sewing, but it applied to life. If there is anything worth doing, it's worth doing right.

    Thanks for your reminder.

    I'm A to Z-ing it with a thousand others, and am here to meet you and award you with the Liebster Award. Please visit my site to follow your quest to meet others of like interests. Have fun! Nice to meet you. http://kscollier1.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Kathy--

      Awesome! And I so hear you on switching person--that's exactly part of what's going on with the Rewrite In Progress.

      Can't wait to visit your blog! Yay for A-Z!

  4. I've done a rewrite. It was a lot of work, but overall the story was a lot better. I look forward to reading your post of the A-Z Challenge. I stopped by to let you know I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. Details are here: http://noreecosper.blogspot.com/2013/03/liebster-blog-award-2013.html

    1. Hi Noree!

      Wow, thanks for the nom! I'll post about it this week. :) Looking forward to reading your A-Z, also (something else I need to post about...guess I have my work cut out for me this week.)

  5. Yes!

    I started all over from scratch. It is scary. For awhile, I would try to salvage scenes, but they were best left in the old draft. The new story came out so much better, more focused. I think the first version was to help me know the story better. The second version was to make it a better read.

    After I was done and did many, many revisions, I rewrote it again to switch from third person to first.

    The book was published last October:)

    1. Oooh! I didn't know you rewrote from scratch on MOON! That gives me renewed hope for success. Congratulations. Hard work pays off (maybe it will for me, too.)

  6. Visiting from A-Z, although I'm not a writer....so I've never rewritten a book but I sure have edited the heck out of my long winded blog posts. lol

    1. Ah! Another giant blog post editor! That's what I'm doing right now.

      Thanks for stopping by! I'm loving diving into the A-Z participants.


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