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Perks
05-08-2015, 09:15 PM
So, on some interesting advice, I am considering revising a trunked novel that's been sitting untouched for more than six years.

Have any of you done this?

With oddly quivering heart and sweaty palms, I just opened the document and read the first few lines. As you might well imagine, there are already things I want to change.

If it were you, would you just dive in and start rewriting the damned thing or would you force yourself to read it first whilst sitting on your hands to keep from typing on it?

Bubastes
05-08-2015, 09:45 PM
I'm doing this right now. I'm forcing myself to reread the whole thing and make a scene sheet. That way, I can get an overall sense of the hot mess I have before I start rewriting. I can already tell that the trunk novel needs a complete structural overhaul. I'm an outliner, though, so YMMV.

Good luck!

ironmikezero
05-08-2015, 09:49 PM
For me. I'd find it far more fun to rewrite as I go. Forcing myself to read the manuscript in its entirety, while doing little more than speculating how I might change this and that, I would find frustrating and entirely too restrictive - not to mention no fun.

If it's not fun, I'm prone to losing interest.

Perks
05-08-2015, 09:51 PM
I'm doing this right now. I'm forcing myself to reread the whole thing and make a scene sheet. That way, I can get an overall sense of the hot mess I have before I start rewriting. I can already tell that the trunk novel needs a complete structural overhaul. I'm an outliner, though, so YMMV.

Good luck!
Hmmm. That's a good idea.

Perks
05-08-2015, 09:52 PM
For me. I'd find it far more fun to rewrite as I go. Forcing myself to read the manuscript in its entirety, while doing little more than speculating how I might change this and that, I would find frustrating and entirely too restrictive - not to mention no fun.

If it's not fun, I'm prone to losing interest.

And then there's this, which feels like it came from inside my own skull.

Perks
05-08-2015, 09:55 PM
I wonder if I couldn't blend the two? Go scene by scene, rewriting as I go, and see what I've got at The End.

I am inexplicably terrified. Which, of course, is completely stupid. It's exactly the skin off no one's nose if I fail in this task.

Why do I resist so?

amergina
05-08-2015, 09:57 PM
I ended up printing out mine, and scrawling on it as I reread the whole thing. That way, I got a sense of the overall plot things I wanted to change. And then life happened and I didn't actually get around to revising it for a year.

Interestingly enough though, While I have those pages, I find that I revise sections without looking at the pages first. When I go back, I've pretty much covered what I had scrawled down. So I don't know if reading the whole thing helped or not!

eyeblink
05-08-2015, 10:01 PM
While not something quite that old, I have redrafted shorts and a novella from scratch, basically by referring to the original but typing it in from beginning to end, revising as I go. I do that for final drafts these days as well - a tip from a distinguished SFF writer via his partner, who is a friend of mine.

CaroGirl
05-08-2015, 10:09 PM
I'm planning to do exactly this but am not quite sure how to approach it either.

In the past, when I've considered revising this very novel, I've read through it before even attempting to write or rewrite anything. Inevitably, I hit a point, perhaps a troublesome scene, where I don't think I can do it. I suddenly think it can't be done any other way and it's hopeless.

When I tackle the book this time, I plan to start rewriting from the beginning, without reading ahead at all, so I don't get paralyzed by the enormity of the ms's problems.

I'm also a pantser, rather than an outliner, so I think this approach will work better for me.

Good luck!!

Kylabelle
05-08-2015, 10:33 PM
Not having ever even written a novel, my advice may be irrelevant but I am moved to say that when I am faced with this kind of dilemma I choose one course but give myself permission to switch tracks midstream, thus never forcing anything for too long.

So I would start off with the intention of reading through first, certainly making notes as I go, but if that got too frustrating and I got the strong urge to just dive in, at some point, I would follow that urge.

For what it's worth.

Marian Perera
05-08-2015, 11:06 PM
So, on some interesting advice, I am considering revising a trunked novel that's been sitting untouched for more than six years.

I just did that! Wrote the first draft in 2009, completed the second draft in a white-hot marathon that started in February and ended three days ago.

And oh my lord, how much has changed. I kept the premise and the setting, but everything else got thoroughly revamped.


If it were you, would you just dive in and start rewriting the damned thing or would you force yourself to read it first whilst sitting on your hands to keep from typing on it?I remembered how the first draft went (roughly), but I wanted to write the outline for the second draft without too much detail in mind. So I did that. It wasn't an extensive outline, more of an idea of what I wanted to see the second time around.

Then I read part of the first draft (didn't need to read it all to see the problem areas) and I added more thoughts to the outline, like giving the MC a younger sister to support. Developed the world further too, because if I can see my characters and my world clearly in my mind, the plot is easy. After that I started writing the second draft.

Jamesaritchie
05-08-2015, 11:09 PM
I don't have any old novels, but I can't see myself ever doing that. It's too easy to write a brand new novel, using the skill I have now. I understand how an old novel would be tempting, but I'll bet it's also a lot more work than writing a brand new one from scratch. I'd throw the old one away and start over.

Old Hack
05-08-2015, 11:21 PM
If you think it has merit then print it out. Read it through and scribble all over it as you go. Write on the backs of pages. Make notes. Work out how you could write it better now.

When you've finished reading it through you'll have a good idea of whether it can be revised into something better, or rewritten into a different, better novel; and if that's the case, you'll have all your notes ready and waiting, so half the work will be done.

GinJones
05-08-2015, 11:34 PM
I've done it. A couple times. It was just as hard as, if not harder than, writing a new one from scratch!

I'm a tad analytical, but here's what worked for me: skimmed the whole thing, outlining it. I use spreadsheets, with a row for each scene and then columns for the page number, pov (if it's more than one), scene location (e.g., an office, a park, on top of a roof), main action in the scene (e.g., trying to climb onto the roof), the main secondary character in the scene (i.e., the antagonist for the scene) and then because I write mystery, a column for the clue that's revealed (or buried) in the scene. Oh, and a column for which plot/subplot or motif the scene is related to, so I can find them at a glance.

Once I have the complete outline, I figure out where the turning points are, and if the scenes are in the right order, or if I need to move them around or add/subtract or completely change some of them. Generally, the manuscripts had fatal flaws that did need some fixing of motivation or subplot or conflict that required moving or changing the focus of some scenes and either adding or subtracting them. Once, I removed an entire subplot, so I needed to find all the scenes that figured into that subplot and then move any clues from those scenes to some other scenes.

I reorganize the spreadsheet to account for those changes, and only then do I dive into the scene-by-scene, line-by-line changes. And even then, if there are major changes, I try to do the big stuff first, and then go through one more time for the fidgety individual line changes. The thing is, it's a waste of time to "perfect" a scene if it's just going to end up being completely cut or even if it's going to move, because what's perfect in, say, the first act, is going to need more work if it ends up in the middle or the third act.

But that's just me. Many roads to Oz.

Filigree
05-09-2015, 06:39 AM
I read through the whole thing without trying to take notes, just getting the feel of it again. Then brainstorming: where and how should I start the story? How do I show the characters' inner lives without boring readers or slowing down story?Any narrative dumps that can be cut, condensed, or turned into action scenes?

_Sian_
05-09-2015, 04:13 PM
I've done this - although, to be honest, it was over my teen years, so the revisions literally happened when I was in a different stage of mental development from when the thing was first banged out on a computer.

I read it all the way through, focused on the things that excited me most about the damned thing, and then started with a blank page, and the same first paragraph, because I liked that. For me, it was far easier than trying to go scene by scene, because I knew things about structure by that point that I hadn't known then, so I knew it was going to need a restructure.

There was also some things that 18 year old me understood better than 13 year old me had, so a lot of the character/world-building politics changed. I was actually quite an interesting process. I dare say if I took that draft done at 18, and did it again now, at 24, the things I changed would be different again.

Perks
05-09-2015, 05:44 PM
You guys are wonderful. Thank you for sharing your insights. It makes me braver.

SBibb
05-11-2015, 08:33 AM
I'm currently doing this with a novel I started in 2003, my first "completed" novel, though I never actually edited it. I tried rewriting it a couple times... never got far because I tried changing the writing style and making it an adult novel, and taking it in completely different directions than the original. I did complete a script for a play writing class, but that version is terribly cheesy and over-dramatic. So I'm currently revising the novel one scene at a time. I skimmed over the whole thing to refresh my mind to the gist of the events, but I didn't actually reread everything up front. I'm not trying to change major plot points at this point, with a few exceptions to fix plot holes. Now, once I get to the middle of the novel, I plan on doing a lot of cutting and writing all-new material, but a lot of that is to fix problems, and I still want the original idea I had to come through, only better (now that I've had a time to learn more how to write).

So... that's my process. I'll find out if it works or not when I'm finished writing it. :-)

ebrillblaiddes
05-11-2015, 12:37 PM
I'm doing this right now. I'm forcing myself to reread the whole thing and make a scene sheet. That way, I can get an overall sense of the hot mess I have before I start rewriting. I can already tell that the trunk novel needs a complete structural overhaul. I'm an outliner, though, so YMMV.
What do you keep track of in your scene sheets? I have a trunked project that needs major plot-related surgery and am trying to get the tools together to attack it.

Nivarion
05-11-2015, 12:42 PM
I'm doing this currently with parts of what were my first trunk novel. I'm glad that when on my second draft I have always blocked my plot down to the main points of each chapter. I use this document to decide what foreshadowing I want to drop and in what chapter. That document is... readable, but the final manuscript isn't. I've also always kept notes on who my characters are and what their back stories are.

So armed with those pieces from my trunk, the first and most question I have to ask is; Why did I stop writing this in the first place?

That question was fairly simple. Plot got too big, and the cast was freakin HUGE! I literally had over twenty named and active characters that I had been trying to juggle all at once, spread across five converging plot arcs. It was too much, and I was far too attached to all of it at the time to figure out what to do with it. With the years that have passed since I put it down, I've become less attached.

So I picked over my plot arcs, and decided which one I liked the most. The demon war had been the biggest movement through there, so it was picked out as the plot I'm going to isolate and use. After that, I had to decide what characters I wanted. Several of them just got sent back to the trunk, one go promoted from side character to MC, some got pushed into the background and a single new one was made. One was changed from protagonist to antagonist and all around, what I have looks like a plot for an 80k word book. So far so good.

So then I looked at my world building and decided I like that, reblocked the new plot and started working on it. It's been fun to work with those characters again. The cast, never getting larger than three is easy to juggle. Both of the antagonists are great, because one is your generic 'for de evuls' and the other is a complex anti-villain who could make the argument that he's actually the good guy there. I have a protagonist with a messed up past and personality and all around a much more workable plot than what I had in 2007 when I started working on it.

And because there's nothing really wrong with those old plot arcs, I reworked them so that if this one sells I've already got four sequels lined up and ready to go. :D

Moriar
05-11-2015, 01:05 PM
I wonder if the changing of the season is what pushes all of us into looking into old novels? ;)
I have revisited old novels in the past, but the whole re-reading was too much for me, so I ended up trunking one of them, and barely re-outlining the other (plus writing a graphic novel out of it... my mind works in misterious ways). Anyway, i have another novel that I want to take back into my hands, and it's the first novel I ever wrote from start to finish, almost a decade ago. This time I am going to print it all, then take it one chapter at a time BUT just to see what I might want to keep. I remember the story quite well but I want to see if any details, side plots etc can be salvaged. Then I will rewrite the whole thing from scratch; the little salvaged pieces might go into the new novel or kept for future use elsewhere. I decided to work this way because then re-reading the novel becomes easier: I know I won't be really using it, so I can skim over the horrible parts.
We will see how that plan goes!
Anyway, I don't know if this helps at all but... good luck!