Michille: Revising Book 1

Boom!I have a new plan of attack for my series that involves blowing up my first story. There are four books in the series with the fourth book serving as a segue into the next series. The first two books are (or were) completed and the second two are partials. But now, the first book is in line for a major overhaul. There is a big age difference between the hero and the heroine and the way it starts now makes that too obvious. There are two main reasons I want to avoid highlighting that. One is that my other stories have a more traditional age ranges for the hero and hero. I usually go with late twenties to early thirties, although the next series has an older heroine. And second but related to the first, is that as my first book, readers might think that is my style and expect that in future stories only to never see it again.

Now I am going scene by scene to identify which ones have to go, which ones can be altered to fit the new timeline, and which ones can stay. The next step will be to identify the gaps. I use Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey and Pam Regis’ Essential Elements as the structure for my stories so the gaps should be easy to see – black spot in the chart = no scene.

Rookie writers are often told to write your story, then get rid of the first two chapters. I’m going to be getting rid of at least the first four. The information will be in the book, but will be woven in as backstory. I’m guessing that about one-third of my story will be in the trash can (sadly), but it will conform to my style more so it won’t break my contract with readers.

This will be the first time I’ve done such a major overhaul on one of my stories. Thus far, I’ve only felt that they needed heavy edits to what is there. This will basically keep the whole story, but change the timeline and the way it is portrayed.

Have you ever completely overhauled a manuscript? Any hints on how to go about it? Words of wisdom or encouragement?

4 thoughts on “Michille: Revising Book 1

  1. I am completely rewriting Susannah and Nate’s story right now. I think the only thing you’d recognize about the story are the characters. LOL. The advantage of being away from writing for the past two years is it allows me to see my story (and its faults) with fresh eyes, and there were many faults.

    I’m using Lisa Cron’s Story Genius this time around (as well as Lisa Miller’s Story Structure Safari) to chart the course of my book. So far, it’s going great. I was willing to change most of the preconceived notions I had about my characters — temperment, background, and what they brought to the story — as well as changing POV (now only Susannah) and who does what (for example, Nate arranges with the Uncle to marry Susannah and split her dowry). I guess that’s what my advice would be…be willing to toss a lot and change a lot, too.

    IMHO, these significant changes are making my story incredibly strong this go around (not to mention the exercises I’m doing for Story Genius about Susannah’s backstory will serve as great teasers/free reads for future readers). I will actually be dumping the first two chapters (haha), but one of them is being dumped because it’s in Nate’s POV.

    Because of the lack of good (long stretches of) writing time I face when the kids are at home, my goal is to have the book outlined by the time they go back to school at the beginning of August. I think I’m doing pretty well there. I know I write better when I have a scene mapped out, so I’m hoping the writing process goes quickly.

    I guess my experience with rewriting so far is a good one. I’m making the story better. I’m sure about that. I’m actually excited about this new vision for Susannah and Nate. And if it means I have a better story for readers, then all of this work is definitely worth it.

    • So does Nate then change his mind about splitting the dowry? Wait, not the point. I’m hoping the distance from my story helps me focus on the most important parts and all the craft study pushes it further. We’ll have to compare notes as we go. I, too, am in the scene-by-scene outline phase.

      • I basically upended everything. There’s no more viscount splitting the dowry. Nate is essentially a double agent, pretending to be Uncle’s protege, and has been for years. Nate and S’s Uncle are basically orchestrating a bunch of things in the background…Nate to protect Susannah, Uncle to take advantage of her. And it goes WAAAAY back, so the actions Nate takes now are actually to protect S, although she doesn’t know that. She’s made him out as the evildoer and the reason her brother died (hint: not really dead), and he perpetuates that myth so he can keep playing the protege/double-agent to her Uncle. And so to protect her, he convinces Uncle to marry her to him in exchange for money. Of course, then he falls hard for her and starts making little mistakes.

        Nate has no intention of really marrying Susannah (they don’t sign the register) unless she wants it. He’s been attracted to her for years — secretly keeping tabs on her, supporting her, and, most importantly, keeping her away/out of the limelight of her uncle — and he plans to give her her money, no strings attached. But then, you know…an attraction develops. 🙂

        I’m loving the Story Genius exercises (in the first few chapters, there are backstory scenes you write that help solidify your character’s mistruth — what they believe, that isn’t really true, usually a cliche). Susannah’s mistruth is that she’s all alone in the world and can depend on no one.

        As an aside to that, I have always struggled with how to make Susannah powerful in her own right. How does she come into the story with the self-confidence to take matters into her own hands? She has to be ready on page 1 to spurn her uncle’s wish (that she marry Nate) and devise her own plan — by herself — to get her money into her hands…and I changed her age, making her younger, so it’s not just a matter of her waiting it out or hiding until the time is right.

        Anyhow, it turns out the scene I wrote the other night — one of these backstory scenes — sets up her newfound self-confidence and independence perfectly. It also reinforces her mistruth, so win-win. (The other benefit to these backstory scenes is they will serve as teasers when I get the damn thing published.)

  2. I always feel on the rewrite that I’m completely revamping everything — but if I’m honest, it’s just the words I’m throwing away. The basic plot is basically still there. The only “trick” I know (and it’s not that much of a trick) is to never look into the original file for “just one phrase” or whatever I think I want to salvage. If it’s good enough to go in, it’s good enough for me to remember.

    I did a major revision on a dark, dystopic short story about a treasure hunt on a remote planet Before McDaniel. I decided I wanted to go in a more cheerful direction, and I think I managed it. I still remember the first story fondly, though. I should go back and re-read these.

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