The Good and Bad With Rewriting

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Since last week, I’ve been working on the rewrite of Yellow Tails. I’m close to reaching my first 10,000 word mark (out of approximately 80,000 words) and thus far it’s been good. It’s been fun, visiting the familiar environment and making the characters more like themselves. I’ve felt confident about my writing.

However, these past few days I’ve also been noticing a feeling of doubt.

More or less, it’s the same kind of doubt I was experiencing last week – the fear of working in vain, the fear of writing a story no one wants to read – but now I feel like I know why I’m feeling that doubt. It’s like a fear that I’m not making the story any better by rewriting it. What if I’m making it worse?

And therefore I thought it would be a topic worth writing about this Thursday: to list the bad things with rewriting an old story – but to also tell you about the good stuff that comes with it.

Feeling Chained To The Old Script

Let’s start with the negative, more challenging aspects.

To Not Follow the Script

First of all, it’s hard not to follow the original script. My aim is to write the story with approximately the same plot line as in the original one but to make it more streamlined and better and the characters stronger.

However, to continually keep glancing at the old not-so-good script makes improving the story difficult.

I’m nervous to take the freedom to write a whole new story with the same idea, the same characters and the same plot line. But at the same time, I keep getting frustrated at the fact that I’m so dependent on the original script that isn’t as good as I would like it to be.

I’m afraid those faults in the original script will slip into this new one without me noticing it.

Feeling Inspired By The Idea

The second challenge with rewriting an old script is that the idea is old: Yellow Tails was written in 2018, two years ago. Back then, writing about the fat yellow Jello cat was inspiring and motivating but now, writing that same story feels more mechanical and less like an adventure. It can turn into a real problem if I don’t feel motivated to write the story.

(But I wonder if editing a story feels the same? Do share in the comments, if so!)

And the trouble is that if I don’t feel energetic and joyful while writing the story, it’ll most likely show in the script. That would be miserable.

Doubting My Former Self

The third, and last, thing might be just me imagining things or it might be real. It’s fear: what if the idea that felt so great in my mind two years ago really isn’t that great? That Yellow Tails got written in that honeymoon phase of the idea when I didn’t see that the story had no depth and wasn’t really worth telling? Am I trying to write a story that isn’t worth rewriting?

This, of course, is Resistance that should not be trusted without proper proof. But I can’t help but doubt my thoughts and ideas from two years ago. Or – maybe the thoughts were deep but I’m not capable of getting that depth on paper again?

Confidence from Knowledge and Experience

And at the same, I’m finding great joy in noticing how I’ve developed as a writer during these two years of active writing. These developments can be seen in the rewritten script when compared to the original one, and that gives me great joy. Therefore, despite the fact that I’m feeling doubt and fear over the rewriting process, I’m also finding positive aspects in rewriting an old script.

Knowing My Style

For the past year, I’ve been curious to find out what my writing style is. Slowly, through writing both fan fiction and original stories, I’ve been figuring out some aspects of my preferences when it comes to style.

I prefer writing in present tense rather than past, for instance, and most often write in third person. I also enjoy the dramatic effect of breaking sentences in the middle –

to continue them on the next line.

Knowing this, and especially knowing the effect the chosen style has on the reader and the reading experience, is valuable when rewriting the script. The original Yellow Tails, for instance, was written in past tense and is therefore changing a great deal because I’m rewriting it in the present tense.

Awareness of the Art of Writing

The other thing that gives me confidence and joy while writing is that I know so much more about writing than I did before. I’m aware of the importance of multiple plot lines and knowing what they are in Yellow Tails. I know more about creating complex characters and how to make them less perfect and more humane to create characters that actually awakens emotion in the reader.

This makes the script richer and I’m feeling more confident of the fact that I’m writing almost-good text already and it won’t need as much editing later as it would otherwise.

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I really do hope that the feelings of doubt and fear will subside as I get deeper into the story. Hopefully I’ll also be able to forget some of the original script and let the story take the course it wants to take because I believe my imagination is even better than it was two years ago. Because who knows, maybe the new story, although the characters and the main idea stays the same, is much better than what I created two years ago?

The Return of the Draft

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When Monday came along, I opened It: the first draft of Yellow Tails. The one I completed in December 2018 (it feels like a long time ago).

Ever since finishing it and re-reading it again after a few months break, I’ve been tossing around the idea of when to get going on the second draft and make it into a manuscript I could consider letting test readers read and comment on.

First, I thought I’d get the second draft done before Christmas last year. Traveling the world didn’t quite agree on the project and the last and only time I put some work into the draft was in the jungles of Malaysia on a rainy afternoon sometime in September. After that, I just let it sit. Didn’t even poke it with a stick.

Even now, although we’ve been back a few months, the draft has been waiting. Or, rather than waiting it has been hibernating. Keeping no noise, but still existing.

And now I know why: it has simply been waiting for its time to come. It hasn’t been about when I want to get back to it or have the time. It has been about when I’m ready for the draft.

I know this, because during the month of April, I recognized for the first time a motivated, courageous little feeling that was telling me that now would a good time to get back to Yellow Tails. It felt like I was finally feeling ready to rewrite it.

At the time, I was in the middle of a writing project working on a 23k fan fiction story and I was very determined to complete it, but I hoped that that courageous feeling would hold on until I was done with the story.

Lucky for me, it was still there this Monday. I felt excited to open the draft, to take a look at it and start writing it again from the beginning. So I did it: in Google Drive, I went to the Yellow Tails -folder and opened the second version of my first draft.

But after looking at it for a while, before typing a single word, I freezed.

I began to feel dread.

Because, as you might know, the first chapter is incredibly important: it’s supposed to be the thing that surprises the reader, makes him or her hang on to the cliff you’re creating with interesting characters, exciting quests and questions about the plot. The first few pages are crucial. And I was sitting there, looking at my previous draft and wondering, how on Earth will I ever manage to write a great first chapter?

Which led to the roller coaster ride of:

Is my first chapter interesting enough? Will anyone get to the end of the first chapter and is there someone who will want to keep on going to chapter two?

Will anyone care about a girl who wakes up in an unknown house and tries to become friends with a cat and a squirrel?

Does my story matter? (Or ever worse: why should it matter?) Will it ever matter? Is there someone out there who wants to publish it?

And so on, and so on. I trust that you can imagine how my thoughts kept going like that until the morning was over and I was feeling exhausted already, with zero words on the new draft.

However, after the first shock of Resistance was over, I remembered that 1) the first chapter is important, yes, but I can always go back to make it even better, which leads to 2) the most important thing is just to write. Simply get those first pages done and keep on going – because if you have nothing written, you have nothing to work on, to improve.

(Also, one thing that encourages me is that these days I’m part of an awesome writing club called The Secret Word Society and the theme of our next meeting is ’first chapter’. It’ll be the first time someone else gets to read Yellow Tails and I’m terrified nervous and excited to hear if my first chapter is working and if yes, YES!, and if no, how it could be improved.)

I believe that riting the second draft is just as hard as writing the first draft, but the good thing is I’m more capable of recognizing Resistance and have a few tricks to get it off my back. I’m better equipped for this writing process than I was for the first one.

And now, three days later, I’m working on chapter three and it’s going great. I am considering taking a few days off actual writing to work on the timeline and the plot because then it’ll be easier to get back to the draft more or less every day but the fact that I have 5,000 words on the new, improved draft and I’m still feeling good… How do feel about that, Resistance?