In 2015 I finished writing my second novel Nephilim. I was convinced that this was going to be the novel that got me published. Like all writers fresh off that ‘the end,’ high.
Four years and five drafts later, Nephilim is entering it’s third minor, and second major rewrite. The cons of a NaNoWriMo novel, I guess.
The thing is, I’ve always believed myself to be really good with plot. World building and characters and dialogue and setting were my weak points, but plot? I had tons of ideas, could talk myself out of any plot hole, create the subtlest elements of foreshadowing. How could I go wrong with plot?
But I had. Majorly. And me being the amateur writer that I was, couldn’t see it. I didn’t see it. Not until it was pointed out to me.
So I fixed my first attempt at the story. I changed the ending. And it made a little more sense, but it still wasn’t right. For 3 years, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my novel. Until this latest beta session hit the nail right on the head.
Everything that needed to change with my plot- the moments that were holding it back- were the pieces I was clinging to. The very first plot twist I came up with and loved, that specific moment where we meet this specific character, that awesome way I was subverting cliche ya fantasy tropes.
Which leads me to today. Busy re plotting my entire novel. Busy planning to basically start from the very beginning. Again.
I knew for a while another major rewrite was inevitable. But this isn’t just changing the ending. This is going through and changing basically every plot point I have, completely readjusting the structure, darkening the tone, and most difficult, changing the heart of the story. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, being told that the only way to save, to improve your book is to rewrite it. To change it. To make it completely different.
It’s something every writer has to go through, that moment of clarity when you realise that actually, your beloved book isn’t as good as you think it is. It’s actually quite humbling in a weird sort of way. Take away the feeling that you’re just not good enough and you’re left with a warm determination. You love your book, you’d do anything for it. Even completely tear it apart and start again.
Sometimes I think writers become so invested in their work, so in love with certain aspects that we fail to even consider their affect on the plot as a whole. ‘That can’t be the problem,’ we cry, ‘because it’s always been like that.’ That, fellow writers is the problem. It’s always been the problem, it’s just taken a while to root it out.
If there’s one thing you need to prepare for, one thing you need to realise is that you shouldn’t grow attached. Not unless you’re strong enough to let go. Kill your darlings everyone, except that doesn’t just mean your characters.
It means tearing apart all those hours of hard work, plotting and thinking and typing and stressing and spitting out your tea because it went cold. It means letting go of your favourite lines and that entire chapter and the subplot you thought was cool but it turns out it wasn’t. It means having the strength, and determination and love to do what is best for your novel. To help it become the amazing piece of work you know it can be.
Has starting again made me a better writer? I don’t know, that remains to be seen. But it has made me a more knowledgeable writer. A stronger writer.
And I’m thankful for it.
Good thoughts and happy writing