Writing Wednesdays: How to deal with rewriting your WIP

November 08, 2017
Rewriting your work in progress can be disheartening, to say the least - so I share a little advice on how to approach it in this post.

As I mentioned in last week's post, my current work in progress has been something I've been going over and over for ages now. I knew what kind of storyline I was working with and what characters I wanted to write about, and despite getting about 20k words in, all the progress I made on it for a long while was rewriting.

I just knew it wasn't working. It was like pulling teeth, trying to write a new chapter, because it just wasn't working.

Part of the reason I was so hung up on the structure was because it's such an important part of the book, for me. I'm using different formats - incorporating vlog transcripts, for instance - and that meant I wanted to play around with things a lot more than my usual Chapter One/Two/Three... structure.

Only every time I thought I could work with it, it still wasn't sitting right. I just knew it wasn't working but I kept trying to write it anyway.

Finally, now, I'm at a point where I know it's working, and it's such a relief.

And half the reason I finally got it working was because I gave up on the original draft. I've not scrapped it, of course, because the general story has still got lots of stuff I want to use.

But I gave up trying to rearrange and change what was already there and started fresh. Clean slate. It was much easier to hit reset than it was to try and keep wrestling with what was already there. Even if I felt there was so much work already done I wanted to keep working with.

Today I wanted to talk about what to do when you're rewriting a WIP - and I don't mean your finished first draft, I mean an unfinished, still-trying-to-write, work in progress.

I've said before that when you're editing, you should wait until you've got a finished first draft, and not edit anything or rewrite until you're at that stage. But a complete rewrite when you're still very early on in your novel and it's still just a work in progress is something else.

The first thing you have to do is find the pain point.

Figure out exactly what it is that's not working with your novel before you try rewriting. Read over all of what you've got so far, think about the direction you wanted your story to go in, and try to compare the two. 

Is it your characters? Is it the dialogue, the tone? Maybe it's the tense or person you're writing in, or maybe it's the point of view. 

Is it the storyline itself? Maybe you need to shuffle a few things around so the plot develops at a better pace, or you need to develop a few things to get the story rolling better. Maybe you need more drama, or tension, or romance, or whatever else you want to shine through. Did you scrap a major plotline but then not readjust the rest of the story to work around that?

And once you've identified what's wrong and what you want to work on, start fiddling around with things. Work with what you've already got. Make some tweaks and changes. Keep rereading, too.

You'll know if it's not working when you're excited about the story but feel like it's really bloody difficult to work on it. But how do you know when you're just feeling demotivated and when it's not working? How do you tell the difference then?

You reread. Reread a few chapters or scenes, at least, and remember to take a step back from your novel every so often. Have a break for a couple of days before you get back into it.

Reread, work on it, keep notes.

For God's sake, take notes. When you're constantly changing things and mucking about with different aspects of the story, you'll probably end up confusing yourself - so keep track of things by keeping notes.

You can read more about why you should keep notes in this post.

But the most important part of rewriting your WIP? 

Don't beat yourself up about it. It's not because your writing sucks. It's not because you're a bad writer. It's not because it's a bad story. You've got all the puzzle pieces for it right there - you're just trying to fit them together wrong at the minute. 

If you've got advice on rewriting to share, share in the comments below! 

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