Last night I did something I've been wanting to do for, oh, six months or so. I finally, finally finished rewriting Transparent! It's DONE. Okay, not done, but you know, the first draft is all the way written. There's a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some of the sentences might even make sense!
Right now I'm mostly feeling relief. I know I have lots of revisions left, but I did it. For a while I wasn't even sure I could finish, so it's nice to know that I could at least do that!
Rewriting—as in starting completely over from blank document—has been quite the experience. In some ways, it was easier than I thought, and in others much harder.
When I first began, I thought I'd be scared. I was starting over! I had to write the whole book again, after I'd spent the last six months editing it and the three before that writing it. The idea should have been daunting, but it wasn't.
Once I wrote my first chapter again, I knew the book would be better. It was exciting! You know how sometimes in life you wish you could have a do over? Yeah, it was like actually getting one! I had the hindsight of the old story. I knew how to make it better. I could just write it all over again and pretend the bad version never happened!
It was liberating in a way. Suddenly it felt like I could fix ALL my old books! Rewriting wasn't so bad. I mean, I had this outline for the new and improved version, I already knew the characters, I knew what mistakes to avoid. All I had to do was follow my outline until it was done, right?
What I didn't expect was the emotional impact of rewriting. I mean, having to write your book again, no matter how you put it, implies failure. I failed so badly at the first attempt that not even six months of editing fixed it. I had to start over completely.
It hit me about 50 pages in—this feeling of utter incompetence. How was I supposed to know this draft was any better? What the heck did I know? Hello, I'd rambled on for 68k words, never thinking once that what I was writing might not ultimately work. Add in some other rather traumatizing writing events and, wow, I was a wreck.
I felt stupid. There's no way around it. I felt like the stupidest writer ever born. I doubted everything about my writing. How should I know if my outline was any good? What if my characters were as lame as ever? What if I put in all this time and just mess it up all over again? Obviously, I hadn't learned as much as I thought I had in the last few years—I couldn't even put together an acceptable book when I tried!
Not really the best mentality for writing. This is where alpha readers become vital, because if it weren't for Nick, Kiersten, AND Kasie (yes, I had to ADD an alpha it was that bad) I never would have finished. The only thing that really kept me going was their encouragement. Them saying it was good would give me just enough faith to get through the next chapter before I wanted to give up again. And sometimes I didn't even believe them, but their nagging pushed me through.
I wish I could say it got better after a while, but it didn't. It wasn't the book—it was me. My mentality got worse as I ventured into the middle. It felt like I was repeating myself (uh, because I kind of was). It seemed like there was no tension (though my alphas claimed there was). It felt like the book was the most boring, stupid thing ever. I didn't want to finish. It didn't seem worth it.
I stopped for about six weeks to work on another project. And though that work ultimately had its own challenges, the time away from Transparent was a godsend. It gave me a chance to step back from all those awful feelings—to see that it was me who had the problem, not the book.
I may not have been bouncing-off-the-walls happy when I got back to it, but I was pleased. I felt like maybe it wasn't so worthless. Maybe it would turn out okay, and that was enough to push me through the last 20k or so.
So now I'm done. I think I'm more proud that I got through it than anything. I know it needs a lot more work, but I'm glad I survived emotionally. That was the most unexpected challenge. It made all the others seem like cake.
If you're rewriting, my heart goes out to you. If I can do it, you can too! It doesn't mean you're a bad writer or that your story sucks. Sometimes you just don't know enough that first time around—I didn't truly know the conflict of my story until after the 8th edit! That's when I realized I'd skipped ahead and it was all messed up.
And to those of you who haven't rewritten, I guess be prepared for a serious roller coaster of emotions. You can get through it, that's what I learned, and no matter what you feel your book will be better. That, somehow, is worth it.