Blood Sacrifices to the Writing Gods (or: Rewriting a Story)

I was having a very whiny moment the other day, talking with one of my CPs. See, I’ve been asked to do something I’ve never had to do before – I have to re-write one of my stories.

Back when I still had blurbs about my finished-but-not-submitted stories on the blog, my editor found one and fell in love with it. So I put it through my standard revisions and sent it over, and he loved it. It was great to hear that his enthusiasm for the project was just as high after he’d read it as it was before (if not higher). But after we started talking about it, it became clear that the enthusiasm was for the concept – and not for the story itself.

Well, sort of.

See, he loves the premise. Likes the characters, thought part of it (the physical relationship) worked great. But the actual story? Not so much. Soooo…he asked me to rewrite it. And we’re not talking just a portion of it. No, it’s pretty much a full-on rewrite, junking almost everything I’ve already written.

My CP pointed out she’s had to do this twice already, at the request of her agent, resulting in dumping 20k from one story and over 30k from another. To be fair, she has a point – that’s a good size chunk of words to cut out and replace. But to give you an idea of what I’m tackling, let’s look at the first four chapters. Chapter One was originally 1700 words long. I cut over a thousand of them and ended with an almost 2k long chapter. Chapter two was originally 2k long, cut (again) over a thousand and ended with 2300 words. Chapter three? Completely new. Chapter four? The same. And at the way this is going, chapters five through probably ten will be completely new words, and maybe at that point I’ll be able to toss in some shit I’ve already written.

Given how much it would take to get this particular story into shape, I think almost any other editor or agent would have passed, stating it needs too much work. So why do it at all?

Good question.

Part of it is getting to approach the basic storyline from a different perspective and not being hampered by stuff I’ve already written. Like I said before, my editor’s enthusiasm for the project is awesome, and some of the ideas we’ve come up with were pretty fantastic. Since I wrote the original story, I’ve written a couple of things that have definite elements of suspense, and that’s given me a lot more to play with. Now if I could just figure out a way to add explosions…

The bigger part is practice. About a year ago, I came up with a new urban fantasy story (and if I manage to finish it sometime this year I may keel over from shock) that would incorporate two other urban fantasies I’ve written and were ultimately rejected. Both would take some rewriting to get them to work, but one will take more rewriting than the other, because it’ll be going from a 180k urban fantasy trilogy into an 80k book. The premise and the characters will remain the same (hellooooo, Jordan) but the story will be junked. Totally junked. I may not even look at the original story before starting in on the new version. No real need to – those characters are firmly cemented in my head. While the thought of having to retell their story is a little daunting, I’m also excited to be able to give them another shot at having their story told.

There will probably come a day when someone, likely an editor, will tell me that the idea is there but the story is not, that I’ll have to cut huge chunks from the manuscript and replace them with prettier, shinier words, but by no means do I have to rewrite the entire thing. And when that day comes, it will seem like child’s play, because I’ll have already made my blood sacrifices to the writing gods with this project.

Although if that day is soon, I may scream in agony first.

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