Thursday, June 9, 2011

Greyhaus Guest Blogger - The Daunting Re-Write

We all hope we never have to re-write the story but it does happen. Revising a story and rewriting a story is part of this business. I thought this writer really has the right idea here. This is what happens when you get too close to the story.

* * *

The first novel I finished was dreadful, but of course I didn't know that. I bravely sent it off to friends and family for feedback. Luckily, I have some excellent readers in the family. But once I had those helpful comments in hand, I had no idea how to proceed with re-writing my tome. I had lived with those people in my head for years. (this was a fantasy novel - 100,000 plus words) To change any of the plot felt like a betrayal of the characters. This had to happen, which influenced that, which of course led to this.

The story had way too many subplots and a cast of thousands. In my head, they all had a special and important place. I couldn't imagine taking out any incident, much less removing a whole person. I put it aside to let it simmer and tried to work on other projects. But it was still a part of me and my mind kept circling back to it.

One of the criticisms I'd gotten was that my main characters' names were too similar. I didn't think so. They looked totally different on the page! Besides, one was human and the other wasn't. But as I'd heard it from more than one person, I had to give it some thought. I spent some time thinking about who they were and what their names might mean. I went through various scenarios of how their names came about. That gave me new insight in my characters. As I created new names for them, I filled in some gaps in their histories.

With the new names in hand I went back to the story. I was astonished to find that my newly named characters were not as rigidly locked into the plot as their predecessors. In fact, it was easier to reshape the plotline they were in than the multiple subplots. With them as my anchor, I was able to see which subplots were not moving their story forward, and needed to be eliminated.

By changing their names, I breathed new life into static characters that had gotten stuck in their initial incarnation from several years and many skills prior. So if a re-write has you bound and gagged on the railroad tracks, try changing Snidley to Dudley and see if that doesn't free you up!


  1. This one hits close to home. I've been doing tons of re-writes lately. It doesn't pay to grow attached to your WIP. Being open to change can trigger a doorway to amazing results.

  2. Interesting post, thanks.

    I have just completed my rewrite of Ripper, My Love. Changing my character names brought about a new enthusiastic splurge too! I fell in love with them all again and the edits flowed.

    My only problem now is I have written it out of Historical Romance and into Historical Romance Suspense. So have to start my agent searches over again. *Sigh* Never make it easy when you can make it tough, should be my motto.