So I have a confession: every word I write does not, in fact, come from finger to keyboard to published book in pristine perfection.
I’ve talked about my editing process before, and about how I outline (generally) in order to keep my characters somewhat close to the path they should follow to bring their adventures to something resembling a proper close. However, with the ending of Spirit’s End, I found that what I had planned fell flat. I wrote the whole thing. Ready to type “The End”.
But I couldn’t do it. The ending, as it was, wouldn’t be a faithful, earned conclusion for these characters and their world.
So I set about scraping it and re-writing. This was, uh, not pleasant. Nobody likes to throw away work, much less several days of it. However, as you’ll hear stated in just about any commercial entertainment, putting out a less-than-stellar product means you’re left with a less than stellar product. It’s marred, potentially forever. Putting in extra effort, even if it’s like flogging a hungover version of yourself with the world’s worst whip, might be worth it over the long haul.
Once I decided to do this, I went about it like so, which is a process I’ve cobbled together from what other authors have said and what I’ve found works for me whenever I need to rewrite sections:
- Go back and find the last part that worked
In other words, start your rewrite where things went wrong. You may not need to scrap everything, but if you don’t go back to the “root” of where your story or characters lost their way, you’ll finish your rewrite and still be unsatisfied. It’s going to be unpleasant, but you’ll be happier you did.
- Jot down a new set of scenes, preferably on paper or outside of your working document
Why? Because it helps to separate yourself from what you already wrote. You don’t want to be thinking of the scenes you’re tossing. Accept they don’t exist. Let your creativity flow without getting barred in by existing ideas. I take a notebook, write the ending I’m aiming for at the bottom of a page, and then write my way there. Take what you write and drop it into an outline. Or if you’re a pantser, well, now you hopefully have some idea of where you’d like to take your new ending.
- Don’t delete the stuff you’re not using
I just told you it was trash. I lied. Sort of. You probably have some ideas or lines that you wrote that might fit your new storyline. Or maybe you dropped some revelations that you’d like to keep. I use Scrivener, and will drop the “trashed” pieces into a separate folder. Just make sure to remove it from the document before you publish (in Scrivener, particularly, make sure you remove it from your compile settings).
- Don’t assume the rewrite is gold either, but don’t spend forever on it
If you’re an author, hopefully you’re going to write plenty of books. There’s no reason to get too hung up on any one of them. After you’ve done the rewrite, treat it with the same editing, inspection, and continuity check that you would do for any other part of your first draft (even though, technically, it’s the second). If it’s not absolutely perfect, consider the time and effort it would take to make things perfect, which is a subjective term, compared to what you could be doing instead… like writing the next book. Create the best ending you can, and then move on.
Ultimately, I’m happy I decided to give the rewrite a shop, even though it’s delayed publishing of Spirit’s End by a couple of weeks. Carver and the rest of them deserve a proper end to their frenzied journey, and it’s been a fun, sometimes frustrating, journey with them. And, really, that’s what’s important. That you put out a book you’re proud of.
But wow, am I happy to be moving onto something new…