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?
Jessica S. Schley was once a pusher of very important papers for a small commercial nonfiction house. Nowadays, she divides her time between bookselling, being a grad student, and writing contemporary fiction for young adults.
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