Saturday, June 6, 2015

When do you rewrite?

I've gotten more personal rejections this year so far than I did all of last year. So boo, still rejections, but yay, the story was good enough or I made a good enough impression that it garnered that extra little bit of attention, that little boost or hint.

In one of those rejections, it was suggested that the story didn't really seem to be the narrating character's at all. Which was true, really, and I'd known that all along. What I somehow hadn't considered was the notion of rewriting the story so that the narrator and the main character are the same person. Which sounds silly, I know, but we've seen it work the other way. Sherlock Holmes is arguably the main character of, y'know, the Sherlock Holmes stories, but Watson is the narrator for almost all of them.

So this rejection, this personal comment, was the push I needed to start a rewrite on that story.

Not every personal rejection is going to be that way. I've received at least one which seemed kind of....unnecessarily smug. And wasn't actually helpfully suggestive. So that one, while still valuable in its own way, goes in its own category.

Of course, there are also rewrites I've embarked on without outside suggestion. The story itself got enough rejections that I felt it needed severe revisitation. Or, I opened a dusty file some years after the original conception, and thought "well the bones are good, but it needs something....". I've got one story I wrote in college like that, probably more than one, which is looking for a home now. It was originally far more of a vignette, the characters far flatter than (I think) they are now. I feel like I overall have a better sense of story than I did in college.

I know as writers we all have strong similarities and strong differences. We all have our own journey and our own process. So, if and when you rewrite, when do you decide to? How do you get there?


  1. Rewriting is something I only really do if I believe the story has enough potential and is a particular favourite of mine. If a story doesn't work and I know it would take hours to produce a story that still might not work, it has to be a story with which I have a special affinity, otherwise I would waste time that could have been spent working on a story with more potential. Even if I get promising feedback that hints that the story might be accepted if I make changes, I'm the one who ultimately has to decide if it's worth the effort. I tend to only submit stories which I've taken as far as I can take at the time, so unless feedback is very specific and the story has a lot of good points, I usually figure it's best to work on something new.

    Having said that, I tend to revisit ideas I've used in prevous (abandoned) stories; I just write the story as I would a new idea, rather than referring to the draft of the story which inspired it. I find it easier to make major changes this way, because I start with what worked (for me) in the original story and then shape and adapt it as I draft and redraft. The result is a completely new story and better for having no "loyalty" to the original; I'm not tempted to keep characters or sentences or whatever that I liked in the original but which don't have a place in the story.

    1. I don't think I really know what a story's real potential is until I've reached some form of "the end" with a draft of it! Plus, I think writing the story as I would a new idea is the problem I'm having with my latest (intended) novel project. It's so hard for me to let go what I've already written!

      I also think I used to have far less discernment with regards to what I submitted; I was confident, sure, but without the necessary refinement. It's a hard balance to find, confidence in knowing you've done all you can with a story and making the assumption that yes, somebody is going to say yes to this.

  2. I don't do enough rewriting..

    1. I think my rejection letters argue that I don't either ^^