Writer’s Insight, August: Starting Over Doesn’t Mean Looking Backward

So, if you’ve been following my blog for the last month, you probably know about my latest struggles with my first novel manuscript. But in case you need a quick refresher:

  • Feb 2017— Beta Reads and feedback. Major rewrites needed for first half of book
  • Mar-Apr – Did the major rewrites on first chapters for a contest
  • Apr – Entered Contest; CampNaNoWriMo – put away first novel to draft second novel, fell in love with one of the characters, dreamed about him more than drafted
  • May – Jun – Thinking and planning to publish first novel (getting starry-eyed), continuing with rewrites, rehabbing half-dead plants I bought from Lowe’s on clearance
  • July – continued with rewrites on 1st novel during CampNaNoWriMo–which was expanded to allow a page count (for editors)
  • Mid July – Contest selections made (I didn’t get to round 2, but I did get some seriously harsh criticism – some positive criticism as well, but who remembers that when your spirit is crushed?), rethought publishing timeline, got less starry-eyed and started to see clearly that I was going to need more editing time, sighed a lot, modified (lowered) my Camp goals to give time for sighing.
  • Now – Starting over with rewrites, getting lots of coffee,  and finding lots of resolve…

…Which is why this post is titled “Starting over doesn’t mean looking backward” and not “Starting Over and why it sucks so much.” There are a lot of positives for me here which is why starting over at THIS point is a good thing.

  1. Harsh constructive criticism allowed me to look at my work in a different way. In a previous post about criticism, I talked about how harsh criticism helped me see that my beginning still needs work.  Now that I’m (sort-of) over the “harsh” part, I can see some of the helpful hints on how to fix it.  I’ve got a great new way to approach the beginning – without fear that I’m about to slash the heck out of my word count (and some of what I think are beautiful poetic prose) – that will help the story move the way I want it to.
  2. Catching mistakes at this point can be career-saving. The wonderful thing about self-publishing is you can (almost) publish what you want! The horrible thing about self-publishing is you can (almost) publish what you want! Which means, you can put crap out there for everyone to see, comment, and harshly review. You can damage or destroy your writing career with one badly written, badly edited (or not edited) book and be stuck forever at 2,000,000+ ranking on Amazon. I’m glad that I’ve made myself start over with re-writes now than go ahead with something that may not  be at my own standard of excellence yet. Or worse may not be read because its buried in the self-pub scrap heap.
  3. I have time to research. I’ve been teaching and writing so long that I haven’t reviewed basic story fundamentals and arcs and other elements in my own work. I’ve only been focused on finding out what I don’t know about publishing and marketing. Looking at these basics with my current version of my manuscript allows me to find out where I went wrong, what I’m doing right, and where I can make it better. This July’s CampNaNo had a virtual write-in where they talk about story structure. I also found a story structure timeline on the Writer’s Circle FB page. These have been instrumental in helping me confirm my plot structure and bring out its weak points.
  4. I have time to research.  Now, that I’ve given myself more time to edit, I’ve also given myself more time to look at the publishing process.
  5. Rewrites may mean more avenues for you. Part of the reason I’ve decided to self-publish is because I was tired of all the agency rejections I was receiving. I just wanted my work out there. That’s not exactly the case anymore; I actually like the idea of self-publishing. But if the agent/publisher search is something that you really want to go through, another round of rewrites, if done well, makes your work more attractive to those potential agents and publishers. So ones who said no, may now say yes.

So even though the song “Reset” by OutKast (featuring Khujo Goodie & Cee-lo) is constantly on a loop in my mind right now, I’m not annoyed that I have to “start over, again.” I’m going to put away previous drafts, start at page 1, and work on this until it’s done. Because “everything happens for a reason. Good doesn’t come without pain.”