Thursday, October 7, 2010

And Again


I had some really insightful feedback recently that set me back on my heels for a bit. It took me weeks to absorb it and to let it run around in my conscious and subconscious brains.

I felt ready last weekend to look again at my story and consider the feedback. It was dead on target. Addressing the issues raised by the critiquers requires a lot of work. A LOT of work. Which is probably why I had to let it sift around in my brain for so long. :)

I've got a problem in the core of the plot. It's based on a coincidence. Blech. Coincidences happen all the time in real life, but not in fiction. I'd known it was there, but it worked so well for the story, I thought I could pretend it would be okay. Silly me.

So, now I think I'm ready to dive back in. Again.

Except this time I'll be starting from scratch. Almost. I've got a lot in my head (characters, setting, much of the plot), but I need to move out on a 45 degree angle. So most of what I've written won't make it into the rewrite. Did I mention it would require a lot of work?? :)

Have you ever started from scratch with the same story? Any advice? I think I could use some!

130 comments:

  1. I've recently had to do the same thing. Since 'm new to all of this I have no advice. I fumbling along starting from the beginning. All I now is that I have a better sense of the work now.

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  2. Mary - it's so good to know I'm not alone!! I think that's so important. Knowing the story - even though it's not written yet has got to be an advantage the 2nd time around. Right??? :)

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  3. I've abandoned mine when they fall apart. I never seem to get back to them. Good luck with the rewrite!

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  4. Jemi, that does sound like a ton of work. Just be sure the rewrite works for you and what you originally had planned. Good luck!

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  5. Laura - thanks! I have done that before. I'm really hoping not to do it this time! I think the story could really work, but I need to get rid of that darn coincidence!!

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  6. TK - thanks! I think the advice was terrific. It did take me a while to try to figure out the direction, but I THINK I've got a handle on it now. All I need is the time to actually get it done :)

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  7. I'm doing that with my current WIP--not completely from scratch but I had to go waaaay back near the beginning. I tried to use Scrivner to break it into chunks but it was harder that way than I thought. So, I'm just working my way through slowly but surely, cutting lots (saving all in a file) and keeping just a skeleton.

    Good luck--it's a long haul but worth it (I hope!). :)

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  8. Hi Jemi,
    First of all, let me offer my condolences. That hard to be hard to hear. I am writing fiction for the first time, so I don't have any advice other than I've read a ton of fiction in my life and I'm not sure it's always true that coincidences don't belong, because they do happen in real life. I think it just has to be believable. But that's just my opinion. Please make sure you don't change your story because of what others say if you don't really feel in your heart it's what's needed.
    Karen

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  9. Mary - I hope so too. I saved the previous file of course, but I started again with only the first 2 or 3 paragraphs. That coincidence happens very early and I need to change the setup :)

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  10. Karen - actually it wasn't too bad. Obviously I was down because I thought I was ready. But anything that makes me better is okay :)

    I think the advice was good. When I gave myself tiime to step back and really look at it from a distance, I think changing it up is the way to go.

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  11. my advice: have some chocolate. Oh, and know that no writing is wasted writing. I know it's not much, but it will be all worth it in the end :)

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  12. I once started essentially from scratch on a story that I'd put 110,000 words into. Talk about disheartening! But the upside is that you know the characters so much better, and that usually helps me with the plotting second time around. You can do it!

    PS my story was much stronger in the end, and I'm really glad I scrapped it and started over.

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  13. I was there last year, so I feel for you. Keeping the new direction in mind I worked through each chapter. I actually ended up re-writing pretty much the whole thing, as new ideas arrived as I was going along. But I found it a lot easier to not be staring at a blank page. To have something to work with.

    Good Luck!!

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  14. Jemi, my upcoming book is a complete rewrite. I mean everything but the two main characters and one scene.
    Focus on the strength of your characters. You know them well. It won't matter the scenario in which they fall - it's their reaction that's key.

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  15. Lynda - love it!! Chocolate most certainly does help with just about anything :) Thanks!

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  16. Katherine - thanks - that's really good to hear! I'd hate to put in the work and not have anything stronger to show for it! :)

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  17. Alexa - that makes me more hopeful. I definitely have a direction and knowing the characters so well is really great. So glad to hear you got through it too!

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  18. Alex - thanks! That's great advice!! :)

    I hadn't realized CassaStar was almost a total rewrite. That definitely gives me hope!!

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  19. I don't have any advice, but will be watching the responses carefully. When I begin editing my second book, I will essentially be starting over. I have to change if from a mystery to a thriller, and the prospect terrifies me.

    Good luck, Jemi! I know you can do it!

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  20. Well good luck Jemi. Not that you need "luck". :-)

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  21. I have two books waiting for this same overhaul. My latest WIP is getting whole chapters ripped out and re-done.

    You have something this time around you didn't have when you first started - solid characters. So I'm almost betting it goes smoother. Good Luck sweet friend! (Hugs)Indigo

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  22. Such a difficult problem to address!! Good luck. I know you'll come through it, though.

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  23. Thanks VR - I hope you're right!!! That's an interesting switch to pull off on your story - should be fun to add in what you need! :)

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  24. Thanks Agnes! I'll take all the luck I can get! :)

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  25. I have re-started from scratch on picture books before, but never a novel. I'm sure that will happen some time in my future, though! Unless I quit writing, but that will not likely happen before I quit breathing. :-)

    I figure if I love a story enough, any amount of revision/rewriting will be worth it.

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  26. Indigo - thanks so much! I'm really hoping the characters will pull me through this rewrite. It is kind of terrifying. I'm only keeping the first couple of paragraphs for now. I might be able to pick and choose other spots later, but we'll see. :)

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  27. Carol - thanks! It's going to be tough, but now that my head's wrapped around it a little more, I'm feeling more optimistic!

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  28. Rebecca - I like that! I do love my story and my characters. I'm hoping it's going to be smoother this time around, but we'll see!

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  29. I'm doing that right now. I took an old manuscript, threw out the first twenty pages, cut one character and am changing so much as I go the only thing remaining the same is the names of the characters. I hope it's something better when I'm done.

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  30. Susan - it's great to hear I'm not alone. Just to know others are struggling with the same monumental task is heartnening! Thanks - and good luck! :)

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  31. so scary but I think you must. You just sit down with your characters and have a little heart to heart first. Tell them that you need their help and that you're going to put a lot of pressure on them, especially the protagonist, but that you know they'll come out true. Honestly. Then wait and see what they tell you. It is like a big knot of chains in your mom's jewelry box - no tugging - it just gets tighter - just light fingers gently loosening the plot. You'll be surprised at how much will stick around. anyhoo that's what I think...

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  32. Jan - you're right - it's very scary!!

    That's a really good idea! I will definitely have that conversation. And no tugging!!! That's definitely something I have to work on :) Thanks!

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  33. I'm doing something similar right now with my WIP. I'm changing a major plot thread, so I'm basically rewriting everything. I'm taking it one chapter at a time.

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  34. I have. No Good Deed started as a completely different story. I only kept one scene, and even that was had some changes. The basic premise was the same though.

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  35. Melissa - that's good advice - one chapter at a time. I'm changing the pov of several sections so that will be interesting too. Good luck with yours!!

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  36. Mary - wow! No Good Deed turned out so well, so it's good to know there might be light at the end of my tunnel :) My basic premise is the same as well so that should help!

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  37. I don't envy you the task of starting from scratch, but you sound confident in your feedback and what you have to do, so I'll bet this turns out to be a great thing. Good luck!

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  38. Kelly - thanks! I'm hoping I had a more solid direction right now. There are, obviously, lots of kinks to work out, but at least I know I'll have a solid base to start from. :)

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  39. I've never had to do that (yet) but I bet you'll succeed. Consider it a challenge. But at the end of the day, don't forget to listen to yourself.

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  40. Yonne - thanks for the vote of confidence - I definitely need it! :)

    I do like a challenge - just wish I had a little more time for it.

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  41. I'm rewriting my current novel project now too Jemi so I feel your pain. But your novel will be SO much better.

    I don't have much advice to give but just to write and see where this new angle takes you and be open. If your experience is anything like my own, you'll be so glad that you decided to rework the story. It'll be much stronger.

    Good luck! I know you can do it! :)

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  42. Isn't it funny how we sort of know what doesn't work, and then our critique group confirms our worst fears?

    Jemi, you can totally do this. And when you're done you'll be glad you put in all that work.

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  43. Karen - so good to know I'm not alone in this journey! I'm thrilled to hear yours is going well. That gives me hope!! Thanks for the boost in confidence :)

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  44. Julie - it really is! I thought I'd buried that coincidence deeply enough - but it just caused more problems that way! :)

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. I hope you're right!!!

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  45. I started from scratch with the same story I'm currently revising because the first couple chapters were plain crap. Basically all I did was 1.) make more detailed character biographies, 2.) read more, and 3.) write more. That's really all we can do.

    Best of luck and I'm confident it will all work out for you! :)

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  46. Amanda - so true. I'm hoping I've read enough and practiced enough. I haven't done the written character biographies, but I do let them run around in my head - a LOT!

    Thanks for the confidence :)

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  47. Jemi, you always have the best photos :)

    Yes, I've done this many times. Don't let it dishearten you though. The second or even third time around will be the charm, and when you rewrite, you not only get to know your characters better, but also become more familiar with your plot.

    You'll be writing with your eyes closed!

    Good luck! :)

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  48. I wish I could help you. I'm glad you have a sense of where you want to go, even if it will be a lot of work. At least you don't have to scrap it. I wish you the best!

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  49. Thanks WN :)

    Good to hear! I've never attempted an edit this big before! It's more than a little scary. :)

    Love your optimistic attitude! I'm just going to borrow it :)

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  50. Theresa - thanks so much! I really believe in the core of my story. I think it will be stronger when I'm done ... but I've got to get there!

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  51. Actually I have started from sort of scratch. I took a draft that was pretty awful, and went back to basics, writing it over again by hand, which used a better part of my brain I think. Anyway it worked, and I will do that again if I get stuck like that. Good luck with yours. I think it's fantastic that you are so committed to making your work better.

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  52. It does sound like a lot of hard work, but something tells me you are upto the challenge. Like they say- the miracle is not that I finished (editing), the miracle is that I had the courage to start.

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  53. I feel your pain! I received some feedback in August that it took me a month to process. I've been editing since then and I'm still not done. But my latest readers tell me I'm on the right track- hurray!

    You'll get there too- it just takes time. And patience!

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  54. Oh dear, that sounds like one hell of a lot of feedback! I'm afraid I don't have any tips, the thought of starting from scratch gives me the colliwobbles. But you seem to have a clear idea of what's needed, and are willing to do it, so... good luck!

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  55. You've got guts to start from scratch! I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST!

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  56. I think you are starting from scratch but with a more confident and more focused approached because now you are armed with a more balanced knowledge of what works and what doesn't! That's always a brilliant start!! GOOD LUCK!!!!!

    Take care
    x

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  57. I can't think of a time when I went back and started over, but I'm probably stubborn too. Coincidences do happen and the device is used in movies a lot--I think it's okay if handled skillfully so that it seems totally logical.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  58. Hey Jemi,
    I know the feeling. I've started a mere PB from scratch and it didn't go well. I think every project is different, though. I wish you luck!

    Marissa

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  59. Karen - by hand??? You're a very brave woman! Thanks for the encouragement. I hope it all works out in the end! :)

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  60. Rayna - wow - I've never heard that one before. It's very true. Editing does take courage. I hope I've got enough to see it through!

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  61. Stephanie - thanks! It's good to know I'm not alone in this. I'll be asking for advice when I'm stuck. :) At least I have a good amount of patience!

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  62. SF - 'the colliwobbles' - I LOVE that!!!! That's exactly how I feel. I'm definitely using that phrase again! :)

    I'm hoping I've got my idea steady and ready to go!

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  63. Jude - I don't know about guts, but I hope so!! Thanks for your best wishes :)

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  64. Old Kitty - thanks! That's awesome advice! I feel great after reading that one! Thanks :)

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  65. Lee - I agree - but I do think this story will be a lot better once I get rid of this particular one! :)

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  66. Thanks Marissa - I'm hoping it goes well too. I think the story is solid - just needs to be done again the right way! I hope :)

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  67. I've done it a couple of different ways. I've done it all on one document, using Word's Track Changes...and it worked, but it was a real mess to look at. And honestly, I don't think it saved me any time because it was so difficult to figure out what I was looking at.

    The second way was that I wrote the parts that I thought worked in the manuscript from memory, while writing in the new parts. The interesting thing about doing it this way is that my memory of what worked was different from the actual manuscript--and usually better. So it's almost like our subconscious does a little editing when we're summing up an old scene from memory.

    Surprisingly, rewriting without looking at the old document went pretty quickly. Good luck! It's a big job, but will probably go faster than you think. :)

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  68. It's all a learning process isn't it? I only write short and essay, so the delete button isn't as heavy as a new novel, but the day will come!
    Insightful feedback that you can work with is always a great thing. May turning 45 degrees lead you on prolific and exciting road.

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  69. Atleast you have the benefit of knowing the character and the world! It'll go fast! good luck!

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  70. Starting over from scratch- that's scary- I never have done that but I do wish you the best of luck and maybe just try to take it a page at a time :)

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  71. Yep! Been there, done that, glad I did. I procrastinated for almost a year, but when I finally bit the bullet and attacked the re-writes, my story sang. Hang in there - you'll be so glad you did! :-)

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  72. Oh, I so feel your pain. I think that was the hardest lesson for me to learn: that in fiction, everything must happen for a reason - not like in real life. And yes, I have started novels again for scratch. I think take what you like from the first one and don't worry about trying to shift content around - just rewrite! You can always grab bits later if you need them... Good luck!

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  73. Oh, hang in there Jemi. I'm almost through the re-write after receiving the critique that I won on writoncon. Then I have to go on to finish the last almost half of the novel. And yes, I have a lot of re-working to do. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  74. Elizabeth - that sounds like excellent advice! I've been leaning towards just writing it straight from a basic (very basic) outline. I'm so glad you've done something similar. That gives me a boost of confidence.

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  75. Lynn - thanks! I'm hoping that 45 degree change is the perfect new angle :)

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  76. Laura - I hope so! Knowing the characters is such a big element I'm hoping it's relatively quick :)

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  77. Summer - thanks! It's absolutely terrifying, but I think/hope/pray it's going to be okay :)

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  78. Shannon - that's SO good to hear!! I really hope mine will end up in the same condition. Thanks!

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  79. Talli - it is painful! But hopefully it's worth it. I know I'll be a lot more careful with the next ms!! :)

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  80. Lisa - sounds like we're in the same kind of boat! Here's to strong rowing for both of us!! :)

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  81. Hi Jemi - Yeah, rewrites can be difficult. And I've had to do the same thing. I'll even rant, rave and say what horrible people they must be for a few days, until it settles in and I can really let it stew. Good luck!!! =D

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  82. RaShelle - lol :) I really did have to let it sit for a while. It took weeks for it all to work itself around in my brain. But I'm hoping I'm good to go now. Just gotta get some time! :)

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  83. The last conference I went to I met with an agent and she really liked my story concept, my series idea, and my marketing plan....but she didn't like the story she said it was just a lovely poem not a story. I totally got what she said, but starting over is taking me some time too...I know I can do it, but picking up the pen it a bit overwhelming...I know where you are coming from, Friend!

    You can do this....I know you can!

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  84. Sharon - so glad to hear I'm not the only one going through it! Just hearing others are in/have been in the same boat is encouraging. That means I've got a good shot at making it!!

    Let's do it!

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  85. I don't think I've ever started totally from scratch and created a new book, but I have taken something I've written and torn it apart and put it together in a way that is radically different from what I started with.

    I agree with you that sometimes you just have to let criticism sit and stew for awhile.

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  86. Jemi--We can do it! I know we can! (It may take twizzlers and chocolate, but whatever it takes....)

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  87. I've put an MC aside even before getting such feedback. Since the writing sucked so hard, it was sort of inevitable, heh, so I'm going for a rewrite when I feel I'll be capable of making justice to the story.

    Go for it, dear! It's hard, and surely frustrating, since you've thought this one was good to go, but I'm sure you'll be happier about the final result, *and* have more chances of seeing the book on the shelves.

    Aren't there some authors who say that writing is rewriting? So, go, go, go!

    *hands a sniker bar* ;)

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  88. Helen - it does take me a while to absorb and react to it. It was a great critique - lots of positives that give me hope, but the negatives sure need to be addressed.

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  89. Sharon - you're on!! Chocolate for me please! I'm willing to make that sacrifice to make it work!!

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  90. Mari - thanks *chomping* Good to go now :)

    It certainly is rewriting! I never quite expected it to be this much, but that okay! As long as it makes the story stronger! :)

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  91. Every story is different. What works for one won't work for another. How wonderful, though, that you got such a good critique. And if you get frustrated, let it sit and work on something else for awhile. That's about all I can think of to say! Except hope you have a restful Sunday.
    Ann

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  92. Ann - I was thrilled with the critique. It was thorough and very helpful. Now I just have to incorporate the advice :) Thanks so much :)

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  93. no, I've never completely started again - I always find something I can cut and paste...
    I am fearful that one day .. it will happen though.
    xxox

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  94. Michelle - it is scary!! I'm having a hard time getting going because I'm so scared I'll mess it up!! But I'll get there! :)

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  95. I've started from scratch. The MS remains unpublished, but the novel became 180 degrees better with major rewrites.

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  96. Medeia - awesome - that gives me hope too! I'm so glad to hear you've had success with it - thanks!

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  97. From your comment, it seems that it will improve the story, so with the chocolate in hand and the great advice and experience sharing I see here, I think you're good to go. ;) You're very fortunate for your loyal and helpful audience!

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  98. Mari - I really am lucky! The advice and support are absolutely priceless! I'm pretty sure I would have despaired without them :)

    And the brownies & cookies I just baked have got to help! Right???

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  99. I've recently been thinking about doing the same. Kicker is I did a massive rewrite on this one about a year ago. The best thing you can do is be kind to yourself (i.e. put the inner critique on mute) in the process and allow yourself the time you need to achieve your goal with the piece (set a reasonable time line). Good luck, Jemi!

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  100. I normally don't comment when I see there's been 99 before me. WOW, you've already got lots of feedback here. But just wanted to say, that you've got a great crit group! And you'll thank them for pushing you when it's done - however long that takes. (and yes, been there.)

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  101. Kimberly - that's really good advice. I've rewritten the first 2 or 3 pages at least a dozen times now. I probably should leave it for now and just get moving with it! Thanks :)

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  102. Terry - thanks Terry! I appreciate all the feedback. It's nice to know people have been there and succeeded and are wishing me well. I'm going to need it!! :)

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  103. I've dones this a few times. The good news is, you've thought about the characters and places and all that...it's just the plot that changes. So much of your hard work is already done!

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  104. What an awesome post!!! I have yet to do this but I'm actually in the middle of starting over one (thinking about it if you will) and I'm hoping to do better than the first round. It's completely torn apart because of it being the very first novel I had ever written and a complete re-write is necessary!!

    I'll be reading all these comments and hope for insight just like you're searching for!

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  105. Lydia - that's what I'm hoping, but I'm having a hard time starting.. panicky attacks. I think once I have the first chunk done it will get easier. I hope :)

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  106. Jen - thanks :)

    My bloggy friends are so awesome! There's always great advice and support from everyone. It's scary but I don't feel alone any more! :)

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  107. If I ever had to tart from scratch a second time I would rename the characters and write a new book or series. But its good you have that kind of feedback. Better to deal with it now than experience some level of failure later.

    Stephen Tremp

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  108. My current WIP I started 22 times and got over 50 pages into before I realized, Yick. This just isn't working. It's now about 17 months later, and I've got 3 pages, but they are really good.

    Revision is a real pain, but it's necessary. I salvaged a good part of the plot and the characters, but the voice was all wrong. Good luck on yours!

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  109. Stephen - you're right. I'm glad I'm dealing with it now as well. It's a lot of work, but at least it's do-able. :)

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  110. Anne - wow!! That makes me feel so much better! It's so nice to hear other people are having success with major revisions. I'm hoping to salvage some of the same things as you managed to. Hope yours is going well! :)

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  111. Happy Thanksgiving, Jemi!

    Yes, I'm facing the same situation with the rewrite of the novel I worked on for last year's NaNoWriMo. I reread it and realized I'd tried to make an epic fantasy out of something that's not like that at all. So it's been sitting there, staring at me every since ...

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  112. Oh, I'm so sorry, Jemi! Rewrites and starting back at square one is hard. (Now I'm cringing, hoping I'm not the one who gave you the advice to change the coincidence!)

    I'm in the middle of a scrap it and rewrite too and since I sat on it for a few years, now I'm able to appreciate that at least I didn't have to throw out the world I'd created. Also, I feel a lot of gratitude that the initial book I'd written really helped me to know my characters well.

    Other advice? One day, one page, at a time. :o)

    Good luck Jemi! If it's the book I know about, it's going to be awesome!!!

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  113. i have begun the same story from scratch... seems computer gremlins decided it was not to their liking... and deleted it :(

    happy turkey day, btw :)

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  114. Belle - Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! Hope your turkey was terrific!!

    This is my NaNo novel as well. I still really like the core plot and the characters, but it really needs a makeover!

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  115. Jackee - it is the book you know about. I'm hoping it will be awesome, but I really have to fix it. It gets overwhelming when I think too much about - so I'm focusing on one thing at a time. I do get to save my world and my characters so I guess I'll be thankful. :) Thanks!

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  116. Laughing Wolf - Yikes - that would be awful!! I had a major scare at one point and I'm better at backing up more often now.

    Happy T-giving to you too! Hope your turkey was awesome! :)

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  117. I have, and it's so tough! I feel like the fixing is harder than just writing something new - but I still definitely think it is worthwhile. You perfect new skills AND perfect your story at the same time! (That's what I tell myself, anyway, for motivation :)) Good luck!

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  118. Guinevere - I think it would be easier to write something new as well. I'm going to borrow your mantra. I'm sure that'll help me get through some of the tough patches! Thanks!! :)

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  119. Wow, Jemi, good luck with that, it's a massive task. I believe in coincidences....just saying ;)

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  120. Cate - thanks! I hope it all works out in the end. It's just finding time in my crazy life right now!! :)

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  121. Yes, I have started over on a project. It's completely overwhelming, but worth it. I'm glad you got some feedback that you needed, and that you saw the wisdom in it. Good luck with your project!

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  122. You won a signed copy of SHADE in my 100 Followers Giveaway of Awesome! Email me to discuss shipping it to you, okay? ishtamerc (AT) gmail (DOT) com

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  123. Ishta - wow! Thanks so much! You've made my day :)

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  124. I think starting over on a project takes a lot of strength, but the result will be so much better. I wish you best of luck on your project! :)

    Emy Shin (my new blog)

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  125. Emy - I hope so!! Thanks for the support - I need it :)

    Off to check out your new blog... :)

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  126. Elana - I don't know what happened to my comment to you - cyber space must be hungry!

    I feel very lucky to have received the feedback - it was really on target and helpful. I'm hoping I can do it justice. :)

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  127. I wrote you a detailed, long comment...and blogger gave me an error and poof! it's gone. *sigh*

    Yes. How about EVERY book I've ever written get fully ripped apart and most of it chucked. This is because I'm character driven and a slacker/non-outliner...therefore have a bunch of plot holes at the end of my first draft. And this is also why I call it Revision Hell...because I always have to do a major overhaul; the price for not plotting first. And since there are no shortcuts, I have to rip it apart several times over several drafts to get it right. It takes me 4 weeks-ish to write the first draft. It takes me around 9 months to do all the rounds of revisions. I'm SLOW at revisions and anal. I fester over every single detail during revisions.
    It's part of my process.
    I've learned to pull on my fire retardant waders and slog through the lava of the RH and face that I'll be trudging through it for months and months and months. And months. *sobs*

    But, this is the price of putting out work your proud of.

    I know you write beautifully, so I have faith your rewrites and visit to the RH will turn out a stellar novel that I'll be eager to read.
    We're knee deep in it together. :)

    Love,
    Lola

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  128. Lola - Yay!! I'm not alone. :)

    You described it beautifully ... in all of its horror. I've started several times, but I haven't quite got the first bit the way I want it to be. Once I can get the first chunk in, I think it'll go more quickly. Okay, I hope and pray it will go more quickly!

    Okay - off to pull on my waders! Thanks for the boost of confidence!

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  129. Yep, I've done it! And I've just started doing it again as my agent wants to see some changes. Its going to be a lot of work but the end result will be fantastic! Good luck with the editing :)

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  130. Elle - that's good to hear! I like your confidence going in - I think I may have to borrow some of that :) Thanks!

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