Rewriting an Existing Story vs Writing from Scratch

As many of you know (but for those who don’t) my Nevermor series is based on a Peter Pan fanfiction that I wrote back in the day, approximately 10 years ago. Yet throughout those ten years, I’ve given it a bit of attention from time to time as far as editing and updating the content, gradually improving it along the way, and when I decided to take on this project, I thought I’d be golden.

I made a pretty big mistake – which in reality may not have been a mistake at all. I didn’t READ the one I’d already written, only relied on MEMORY to drive me as I created the new book.  I finished Nevermor and was feeling good about it, and I thought: Okay, the second book is already written.  All I have to do it tweak it some, clean it up a bit, and it’ll be done!

So, so wrong.

While I was able to go in a whole new direction with Nevermor and guessed that I would fix this one accordingly, I hadn’t taken the degree of material that I would have to remove or completely rewrite from Forsaken into account.

In a way, this has been good. I love what I did with Nevermor and I don’t regret it. The rewrites are tedious, but this approach is forcing me to correct things that I didn’t like about the story instead of letting them slide – to really examine the plot and the characters and set things up a bit better.

Consider, there are 10 years of writing experience between where I was and where I am now.  That’s certainly a lot, and worth the effort to capture.

Here are a few of the things that I feel make the rewrites MORE difficult than if I was simply writing it fresh:

Sorting through sections/sentences – There have been many instances in which I’m picking through portions of the rewriting as if looking for rotten spots, trying to decide if I should keep this piece of a sentence and work with it or simply trash it and write another. In the past, I was NEVER able to delete anything I wrote. If I wrote a paragraph, it stuck, even if I stated the same thing in another paragraph later. To say that I can delete portions of my writing truly shows how far I’ve come in understanding what is better for the story.

I added new details in the new book that affect this one more than I thought: It was my intention that all the books should go together, and yet stand alone in their own way. Instead of drawing one long story out over three books, you’re getting three great stories that go together, but also stand alone with their own plot. So, I wasn’t too worried about the new book, Nevermor, being different, but because of the way that I looked into the past and built onto the story, certain details about the characters have been affected. It’s not a bad thing. It gives the characters more life. It just makes the rewriting more difficult.

There is less building and new discovery – The main thing I find discouraging about this one is that I keep getting bored with it as I go along. The reason for this is because I don’t have as much brainstorming going on, and I don’t feel the exciting rush of new ideas as I build this story and watch it unfold, because it is already there. I have built onto a few things, and that was fun, but it’s difficult to remember the contours of this clay I was shaping so many years ago…

When I first started this conversion project, I probably would have told everyone that this was the way to do it:   write the second book first and then go backward. (ha!)  In the end, I’d almost – ALMOST! – rather just be writing this from scratch. It’s going to be awesome in the end, but working on it has seriously been giving me a headache!

But I digress. It is the price that must be paid for art. So, now I turn to it once again.

I find that I keep cutting my wordcount as I delete paragraphs and add new ones, and right now I’m drifting somewhere around 140K, but that’s still a good number. It’s progress!

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