I’m working on a story I thought I finished seven years ago. After sending it out a few times and getting some responses, I decided I needed to rework the ending. Which I started doing seven years ago, then decided to work on a couple new stories instead. Those stories sold, which is good, but now it’s time to get back to the rewrite.

Often it’s easier to start over rather than rewrite something, but this story is close to eighty thousand words, and I really like the first two-thirds. It’s just the last act, so to speak, that needs revising. So here I am, trying to decide what to keep and what to throw out.

In other words, this rewrite isn’t simply to correct sentence structure, grammar, or spelling. No, I need to actually dig into the plot and find a better way to get to the end. The story needs more tension. A ticking time bomb. Someone in peril. A reason for a reader to keep turning pages.

bomb explodid

I also need to make sure I make things occur as they would in a real situation. I can’t simply manipulate my characters so I get to the ending I want. I need to follow the ACTION/REACTION concept. If X occurs, then my main characters will say/think/do Y. I also can’t make them do anything I haven’t already written into their training or personalities. Well, I guess I could, but then I’d have to go into an earlier section of the story and give them that training or personality trait.

In many ways, rewriting is fun. It’s a “Instead of this happening, what if…” situation. As a kid, I used to do it all the time. After seeing a movie or reading a book I really liked, I’d rewrite the ending…sometimes casting me in the story, sometimes not. It was easier then because my new ending didn’t need to be logical, it simply had to satisfy my daydream of the day. The ending to this story I’m now working on needs to be logical…but you know what, I think it’s still going to be fun.

And that’s why I enjoy writing. Unlike real life, I can control how things work out. That’s a powerful feeling.

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11 Responses to Rewriting

  1. Paula says:

    What a coincidence, Maris, that you’d be writing about rewriting. Today I received an email from an editor to whom I’d sent an article for her consideration as a reprint. She said she liked the overall message. Then she told me there was confusion for her in a couple of areas. (Me write something confusing? ha!) Anyway, she explained what she thought were the problems with it and said if I decided to rewrite it and resubmit it, feel free to do so.

    I couldn’t help but think how the first editor who printed it wasn’t confused at all. The purpose statement is right in the first paragraph. Oh well, that’s the difference in editors, right?

    I write in a shorter format than you do, so it shouldn’t be difficult to rework it for her, but I disagree with her comments and wonder if I want a sale that badly.

    Thanks for your thoughts and keep going with the rest of your third act.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Ah, Paula, that is the dilemma, isn’t it? Do you rewrite to meet her expectations or skip the sale? I guess it comes down to how strongly you disagree with her comments. Give yourself a day or two to simply think about what she’s suggested before you make a decisions. Either way, I’m sure it will be the right decision…for you.

  2. Becky Lower says:

    Like you, Maris, I have a love/hate relationship with rewrites. I try to find a balance between what I consider editor intrusion and what I consider a valid point. A friend of mine is working on a series and her editor wants her to rewrite the second book, since she doesn’t really carry the theme forward. It’s a real trick to write a series, yet have each book read as a stand-alone. It’s no wonder we authors constantly question ourselves.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Becky, I certainly understand your friend’s problems. I’ve discovered that writing a series comes with its own set of problems. How much to refer to earlier books is my biggest dilemma. My editor is constantly telling me if it’s not necessary to the current plot to leave it out. Hate it when he’s right.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    There is something powerful about rewriting a story. You get to decide how it ends. I wish you luck. I know how challenging it is and yet, I’m also positive you’ll do it right!

  4. Diane Burton says:

    You are so right about it being easier to start over than to rewrite. I did that. No fun. But if you feel strong enough about a work (as I think you do), it will be worth the hard work.

  5. Lucy Kubash says:

    I’ve been doing more rewriting than writing and it’s usually easier for me. But not always. Happy rewriting to you!

  6. Judy Nagle says:

    Talk about timing! I’m in the middle of a rewrite for a full length novel, and don’t have an agent or an editor to spur me on.
    Your comments hit home, especially the one that boosts my ego by reminding me that I am the one in control.
    Thanks, Maris,

    • Maris Soule says:

      Judy, I’m glad my post helped. It is difficult sometimes to drag yourself back to a story you thought was finished and rewrite parts, especially if you don’t have a deadline hanging over your head or an editor demanding change. And yes, we are the one in control. It’s our name that will appear under the title. I want what’s inside those covers to be the best I can make it.