After a three-month hiatus I surprised myself last Friday morning. I sat down and began writing the second draft of the novel. It feels as if I’ve completely started over. The story and the characters have evolved like I’ve woken to a new day. And so far it’s feeling damn good; I only hope this feeling lasts.
I’d actually made tentative steps into a rewrite late spring but then I lay the metaphorical pen down. I heeded the advice of SJ Bradley, my mentor on The Womentoring Project, who’d told me to step back and to take my time writing this piece, years if I have to. The last few months have shown me how right she was. I didn’t spend the time sitting on my hands though. She gave me exercises; dialogue placing my characters in a variety of situations outside of the actual story. The result, I now have new scenes to add to the narrative… I also wrote monologue after monologue for my main character, and how she felt towards the circle of her closest relationships (mum, dad, boyfriend, brother etc)…. I’ve really gotten to know her. And it wasn’t just her. All my characters have solid lines now. They all inhabit an inner world, talking and relating to each other when I am unaware, and when I’m asleep. So when I returned to the story last week their detail was florid, and I was eager to let their lives flow onto the page.
I was also nervous. Was my story up to it? Was it as cool as I first thought. I kept rereading paragraphs over and over allowing a barrel full of doubt to flow in through the hesitant cracks. A flash flood of apprehension. It reminded me when I used to buy records. I would spend hours making my way through a tiny skyscraper of vinyl, and after an hour or so my ears had become desensitised, half deaf to the rhythms. I couldn’t hear the music anymore. I certainly couldn’t discern between the wheat and the chaff, which was a good track and which wasn’t. And it was a little like that when I obsessed over the prose again.
Then I remembered. It wasn’t me writing the story. It was my character, and hadn’t I gotten to know her so well over the summer? So for the time being, I placed my need for flouncy description aside, and let her, my main character do the talking. This was her narration, her depiction of events. It was her on the page. Not me. The words became simpler, clearer. I haven’t looked back.
There’s a lot to be said for taking time off between drafts. The process is truly alchemical. In doing nothing and creating space something magical has occurred. The story is beginning to come together, it’s writing itself. Who knows what subtle nuances my characters will reveal of themselves in future drafts… exciting eh?
I agree. I have put mine down and picked it up again a few times. At the moment I’m all in and determined to polish the final draft. I have another novel waiting on the side lines that I need to pick up again at some point. I am hoping that taking the time away from it, will give me renewed inspiration when I finally come back to it. Good luck with yours.
Sounds like exciting times for you. I love that you are ‘all in’ at the moment. And it’s great that you have another story on the sidelines too – and it will feel fresh when you come back to it!
Wow it really does sound like you’ve hit upon something magical here! I find with most areas of life, if you are struggling with something give it (or them) some distance as time will generally work wonders in regards to coming up with a solution to the problem… Well done on getting back in the game as it were, look forward to hearing more about this project 🙂 #whatimwriting
The answers always tend to come in the spaces in between. The mind needs down time for processing and to formulate new ideas. It’s good to get back on with it though. :o)
I’m excited for you! I have always planned to put my novel to one side after I finish the first draft and before starting the second but I’d not considered working with the characters in the break. I love the idea! It’s great to hear that your characters are coming to life properly and almost writing the book for you. If they’re more real to you they’re bound to be more real to the reader which can only be a good thing. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting xx
I found working on the characters during the break worked wonders: they became more real and I found out so much more about them, details that’ll really effect the story. It was great linking up again. X
Very exciting. I have to take breaks from my fiction because it just isn’t practical to work on it constantly, but after the initial worry about losing my thread I have in fact found it mostly re-energises me in terms of ideas.
You are so right…. after the doubt has subsided, you find yourself with a whole bunch of new ideas, and it feels very refreshing.
This is great to read! Are you doing a full re-write as a second draft or chopping about your first draft? I worry that in my less productive months I end up mixing all my characters in a pot of “Chrissie-ness” then they become mushy carbon copies of each other 😦
Thanks for linking to #whatimwriting again. It’s good to see you x
Thank you. Pretty much a full rewrite with chopping up as well. And that’s your preception :o)…. I am sure if someone else were to read your work, your characters would all seem very different. It’s very easy to find yourself lost in your work, unable to see the woods for the trees. X
Exciting indeed… 🙂
I totally agree, taking time in between drafts definitely helps. That is what convinced me to start again with one half of my book. It is so much easier to write and – I think – better now.
I like the sound of your exercises too, great advice your received. xx
Thank you very much…. doing the exercises really helped, and has made me feel more confident about the story. Everything seems to have matured. X
Ah it sounds like you’re at a really exciting point! I’m not quite there yet with my redraft but I had flashes of it today. I wish I’d found the time over the summer to be a bit more disciplined with exercises, but there’s been an awful lot of thinking which hopefully will have a similar effect! We shall see… X
I’m getting there :o). I might be saying something very different in a month’s time! I am sure that all the thinking you were doing has made a huge difference. I did a lot of thinking too! Best of luck. X
I feel for you, I’m doing the same. I wrote a full first draft last year, HATED it, basically binned it in my mind, and wrote Dottie so not to have a nervous breakdown. I started my next book, then woke up in teh middle of the night with the idea of how to fix that original first draft. So now I’m ON IT. Maybe. AHH!
Good luck! xxx
I think it’s brilliant that a year on you found the solution to the draft you disliked and the whole thing wasn’t wasted – you can polish it into something you really like now! X
It sounds very exciting indeed. I love that your characters have come to life more over the summer, and I do think taking a break from things gives you fresh eyes.
It is! And I hope it stays that way….. What I’m writing now is pretty much a rewrite in thanks to seeing the story through a fresh lens.
Very exciting. Getting to know your characters seems to have helped you a lot. Taking a break is great advice. 🙂
Thank you very much – taking a break has worked wonders so far! :o)
I’m intrigued to meet these people you know so well! It must feel wonderful, to have them all so clear in your imagination. I bet the story will flow so much more easily after this pause of yours….
I hope so! Some of my characters need further clarity, so I reckon I need to buy a few new notebooks (any excuse) so I can jot down my ideas. So far, I am enjoying the second draft but the process is quite stop start.
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