What I've learned from rewriting/taking my time writing

 

Firstly, I just wanna say that yes, I am aware that my blog is lacking serious author related information and my book links are not working.

I don't even think I wanted to or even tried to sell any books this year because I've been spending the whole year trying to make my original books suck less.

For those of you who've read them and like them, I owe you an apology, along with a better written book.

Even though I am hard as hell on myself and I'm my own worst critic—I don't think anyone could even write a review saying something worse than what I've told myself about my own work, but please don't accept that as a challenge—I feel incredibly blessed to have readers and fans who believe in me even when I can't believe in myself.

And if you're one of them THANK YOU so much because your tweet/e-mail/Facebook/Instagram message is probably a bigger part of why I'm still here writing these books than I am.

On days that I didn't even feel like doing this anymore, I would get an e-mail from a very lovely reader telling me that they love Marcus's and Ellie's story and can't wait for Evermore. I printed all those messages and e-mails and have them in a special binder and on days I feel like pulling the covers over my head and saying “to hell with it” I pull it out and read them again and then keep going.

I've been feeling like an impostor, wondering what would make me a REAL writer/author and seeking validation only to learn over the course of a year that I'm the only one who can give myself that validation. I don't need anyone's permission to write but my own and I just have to give myself that.

With all of this being said, the book links and author information will appear next year along with an official author bio as soon as I figure out who I am as a writer/author.

What I've learned from rewriting/taking my time writing

Here are the Pros/Cons on why taking 2 or 3 years to write a book is both a good and bad idea based on my personal experience.

 

Pros

 

  1. You will get to know your characters more. Possibly a LOT more.

     

One of the biggest complaints I received on Pretty in Black was that the reader didn't get to “know” the characters. Back in 2011/2012 when I was getting this feedback, I had no clue what that meant. But man oh man, did I figure that out the hard way.

Essentially, I'd never given it much thought about who my characters were, I mean, I was just telling a story, putting words on the page. But this singular thing matters much more than one might think. You HAVE TO know your characters because your characters are what determines how the story goes and sometimes they are the story.

As soon as I began rewriting, I started discovering things about my characters which I never knew before, or at all, really. Their voices got stronger, their motivations clearer, and little things started snapping into place that made the story THAT MUCH BETTER than it would've been had I not questioned everything.

Instead of treating my story like a shake ‘n bake/book in a box where you just snatch a plot out of the shelf, toss in some character names and sprinkle in the serviceable words for a bland spice and serve it up to unsuspecting readers, I posed this question: what is MY story? What do MY characters think/do/feel? What colors, words, descriptions, etc are going to bring MY story to life and make it pop off the page?

And then I took my characters on a coffee date/interview and told them, okay, here's how it's going to go: SPIT IT OUT. Who are you? Once I started doing that, they started talking then.

This is uber important which is why I placed it up first. Readers, especially in the YA genre, read for FEELS. But before they can FEEL, they must KNOW who your characters are, who to cheer for and why. Once your reader knows your character, and if you've made your character relatable, the reader gets more pulled into the story.

What's your character's favorite color? What makes him tick? What does he do on a rainy day?

All of these little things takes the character that you've built with words on paper and gives him flesh and bone and makes him REAL. That's pure magick.

 

2. You will be able to pinpoint your mistakes, strengths, and develop better skills.

After you've written your masterpiece, step away from it. Let it age. Read. Write something else. Study your craft. This is the only way you're ever going to get clarity and be able to notice the areas where you need to improve.

Because even when I go back and read what I've written weeks or even months ago, I can always find several things to change that'll improve the writing, and thus, the story.

Your writing is never as bad or as good as you think it is.

 

3. Better rewriting/revising

This should've been a subset of point #2 because it ties in with the idea of improving your work. When the time arrives to rewrite your book, and you MUST rewrite it, don't think you can skip this step because I skipped it and had to pay the consequences, you will be able to see what plot points, themes, ideas, and etc need the most work and how to tell your story better. Every book needs at least 1 complete rewrite and revision. From there, you will learn what scenes don't need anymore work and which ones you need to keep working on. More often than not, every scene can improve by adding something or taking something away.

4. Better ideas will arrive

Just because you've reached THE END does not mean this is THE END.

I “completed” Pretty in Black (the new version) months ago and every night as I'm reading over it, I find myself tweaking lines of dialogue or highlighting parts that I need to move toward the front or delete and place in a different scene instead. I see places where there needs to be a line or two of description to establish sense of location.

I “completed” the first draft of Evermore in 2014? 2015? I can't exactly recall, somewhere in there, but it will undergo a major rewrite in 2017 and I already have pages upon pages of notes about things that need to be changed, fixed, fleshed out and corrected.

The more and more time I spend writing and rewriting this book series, the more and more I wanna beat myself up over releasing the original version into the world in the first place. The only reason I don't do that (not as much as I feel like it, anyways) is because I know that this has been a major learning experience and I would've never obtained any of these skills or would've known WHAT to do if I hadn't've messed it all up the first time.

You DO learn from mistakes, so never be afraid to make them. There's a quote out there somewhere about SUCCESS vs FAILURE that says something along the lines of “no success can be achieved without failure.” I just Googled that and it lead me to this page: READ THIS.

No matter how bad, or good, you think it is, a better idea will arrive, big or small, and alter your story in some way. Trust me on this; you'll love your story 1000% more for it. It could be something as simple as a line of dialogue that pinpoints exactly what you were trying to say weeks ago, or something as heart stopping as a beautifully rendered paragraph of description that really pulls you into the scene and gives you pause.

    Whatever it is, just know that it's coming and be prepared for it.

    5. You will have plenty of time to layer your story.

    What is layering? It's when you go back and add stuff in to flesh out your story and give it life.

    The first draft is all about sketching and getting main concepts and ideas down, the skeleton of the story. Next, it'll have to have veins and blood and flesh and a heartbeat and let me just stop this semi-grotesque comparison before this gets anymore creepy or gory.

    Layering is super essential because it's what gives your story a pulse. It's alive! It's ALIVE.

    If only I'd known that the FIRST time.

    I pretty much left most of this stuff out of my original book and that's why it's so yawn-worthy, among other reasons.

    Every book worth reading will have all of the following things in it: setting, tone, atmosphere, mood, colors, voice, vivid descriptions.

    They all play off each other to deliver an impression of the book's world. If done correctly, a reader can easily slip between the pages and live there.

    Nothing in your book should happen inside an empty colorless space unless that's an aesthetic you're going for, and then, by all means.

    The atmosphere is created from the diction (word choice).

    It's how you describe the things that gives a book its mood.

    All of this becomes the pulse, the heartbeat, the soundtrack of your novel.

    Words have denotations and connotations and knowing the difference between those two will help you find the right words to use when writing.

    This is a really crappy example but I know you'll forgive me because it's 3 in the morning and my brain is dead:

    Lets say you're wanting to describe the sudden quietening of a room. You could write something like

    The room silenced.

    That's fairly standard, and a little boring, but it gets the point across. If you want to give your writing a little flair of personal style, you might write it like this instead:

    The room bled of sound.

    Hmm. That's more specific. And it's a sentence I would expect to encounter when reading a HORROR novel or suspense. It lends itself to the atmosphere and tone of that type of book as the word ‘bled’ has connotations of fear and fright associated with it.

    However, If that sentence shows up in a lighthearted romance, then we're gonna have some problems. It would be jarring because it's completely out of context.

    SO you would want to write it like this instead:

    The room softened into whispers.

    Cons

    1. We change as we get older.

    And so does our perspectives and experiences.

    The changes I encountered over the course of 1 year were surprising. I went from not having a clue about how to write to actually having a clue. The books I wanted to read from previous years began falling off my TBR list for various different reasons, a lot having to do with INSTALURV, abusive relationships portrayed as ideal, and stereotypical high school social groups and depictions of teens. (I read YA obviously.)

    A series that I fell in love with in 2012 I ended up DNFing the last installment because I realized there was no relationship build-up between the main two characters and there never had been since book one and so, why do I care about how this story ends? I didn't. I mean the characters didn't even speak to each other beyond glares and one word sentences, and the male MC barely had any lines. And all of a sudden the Female MC was all I LOVE HIM and risking her life to save him from his own personal demons aaaaand it took 3 books to accomplish that end goal.

    He did nothing but cry, woe is me.

    Just . . . no.

    The story would've been fabulous with one major change: Scenes that established an actual relationship, MAKE ME BELIEVE IT, I don't care if it's FICTION, okay?, and the male MC doing something to fight FOR. HER.

    I'm telling you guys, rewrite, Rewrite, REWRITE. That would've made a world of difference for me.

    That's how much I changed.

    Books tend to find us at the right time when we need them and how we see them and interpret the story somehow echoes our own viewpoints on life, which is why people say that no two people will ever read the same book, even if they did read the same book.

    I woke up to a lot of things and certain books and ideas that appealed to me previously no longer resonated.

    We simply didn't vibe the same.

    And this is why I FEARED rewriting my book series because What if EVERYTHING changed?! How could I possibly keep it the same, but different?

    Luckily, for me, I'd left SO MUCH out of my original books that adding stuff in wasn't an issue. It was more of a matter of WHAT to include in the rewrite. I realized that I wanted to combine real world issues with fantasy. And that, while my MCs (main characters for those of you who aren't used to book/writers' terminology) are instantly attracted to each other, I would have to include scenes that took them from their initial attraction to love without falling into the trap of INSTALURV—which will be my next post, by the way, followed by a rant on word count.

    I had a list of changes to implement to the series, things I'd personally like to see happen in YA that aren't currently happening.

    But Con #1 is this: From year one to the next, we might look back and change our work, and then by the time we've made those changes we are different and ready to make more changes. Either way, the story will, without doubt, lose something. Mine went from poetic, lyrical, and sweet, delivered minimally like a screenplay to horrifyingly romantic, seductive, with cinemagraphic writing; though, I am sure there are places of lyricism in there somewhere because I began writing as a poet/song writer, and then a screen/script writer (I majored in film/cinematography in college—film was my first career choice) before learning how to write books, which is an entirely different medium of expression.

    2. Manuscript burnout.

    This one's easy: you want this book OUT OF YOUR FACE.

    Forever.

    3. The book you're writing now and planning to release 3 years from now may not be trending.

    They say don't write to trend, but more often than not, trends do determine what books are most popular and are being read the most, and if having a writing career that will provide you with a livable income is your dream, then this is definitely something to think about. If the cool kids are reading THIS thing and you're writing the OTHER one, or you've published the “other,” your sales may not be as high as you'd like.

    This'll make you slam your first against the PANIC button—Hurry HURRY write it and publish it NOW before the trend dies!

    Timing can be everything.

    To combat this, just know that trends aren't predictable, book genres and subjects do tend to circle back around—just, you'll never know when,—and it's always better to write from your heart and from a place of joy, simply because you WANT to tell the story, instead of chasing after a spot on the HOT list. Which, ironically, it's usually when you're NOT trying to make the HOT list is when you actually MAKE IT. Or, in MY case, get really great reviews and find readers when you LEAST expect it. Funny how life works.

    How to beat away the cons

    • Trust your instinct: if you feel as though you need to make a change, then make a change. But also make a pact with yourself to reach a happy place in your manuscript where you say, “Okay, I can live with this.” IF the truth was known, I could keep changing things forever and tweaking every sentence and word.

    • Be REALLY in love with your book. It's okay to hate it and wanna burn it from time to time, but if this stays consistent, then this could be a bad sign; we don't get tired of good writing, or a good story, no matter how many times we've read it. Don't believe me? Think of your favorite book and how many times you've read it. See? If you hate your book that much, you should analyze why. (I hated mine and now I know why.)

    Remember: Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference.

    • Do not write to trends; fall in love with what YOU'RE doing instead and/or put a spin on the trend and make it uniquely your own so that the trend will keep trending. Figure out your VOICE and what you can bring to the table. What can you do that no one else can do? This will ensure you have readers for many years to come who read your work because they know you'll deliver “that special something.”

    In closing:

    The overall take away from this post: Rewriting is writing; my book “sucked” because instead of rewriting it, my naive and inexperienced self slapped some basic edits on the first draft and called it a day.

    First drafts are supposed to suck. Rewrites is where all the magick happens.