Writing Wednesdays

The Long Road of Rewrites

This starts a new series of posts.  Every Wednesday, I’ll blog about everything writing–from craft to industry to sharing insights on my journey to publication. This week, I’m talking about rewriting. Next week’s topic is comma placement and common mistakes.

So, I hope y’all click by on Hump Day for Writing Wednesdays….

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In December, I received the fifth editor rejection on my first contemporary Western, The Long Road Home. Also at least 15 agents rejected it before it caught the interest of an agent. She like the story but felt it was too long, and before she’d offer representation, she requested a revise and resubmit. Which I did, and she signed me. The book eventually was rejected by Harlequin American, which honestly doesn’t surprise me. I don’t read enough of them to know how to write them.

But this isn’t about rejection. I’m talking about rewriting.  With that fifth rejection, I was offered a revise and resubmit (an R & R). I get a second chance, if I’m willing to rewrite.  Of all rejections, these are the best, because it shows you that the editor/agent liked something enough to give you another chance.  With this particular editor, this will be my third chance. She gave me my very first rejection on this book and gave me an R &R that time, too, but instead of sending it back to her, I queried agents. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, if  you’re keeping count, I’ve already rewritten this book twice. The third time came when I tried to incorporate some of what the Harlequin editor said was wrong with the book. These don’t count the first rewrite when I shortened the first draft from 120,000 words to 90,000, or the several intense editing and deep revisions I’ve done to clean up the writing as I learned the craft. Yeah, of my five completed original novels, this is the one on which I learned how to write.

I really thought I nailed it this last time, then I got that rejection—ironically from the same publisher (different editor) that offered me a contract for my very first book only 2 months prior.  Her problems with the book were very similar to the problems two of the other editors had with the book—faulty GMCs of my hero and heroine…plus they said I never fully redeem my heroine. This editor disliked her completely because she doubly betrays her dead husband and the hero—which she continued to betray for most of the book by keeping secrets.

Note to the weary—it’s easier to redeem a hero than it is a heroine.

Since then, I’ve debated on whether to rewrite it again or send it elsewhere.  In fact, I almost did so last week.  Then I reread my rejection letters—and realized why this book has given me so much trouble from the very beginning. And why it was getting some really strong bites, but ended up being rejected. The rejection before this one came from the acquisition team of another big e-publisher and voiced many of the same conflict issues, but they didn’t give me an R & R.

My GMCs and the plot—just don’t work, which was the original reason the first draft was 120,000 words long and it’s undergone at least 6 deep revisions/rewrites. However every time I’ve rewritten it, I’ve never changed the hero’s and heroine’s GMCs or the plot. I’d just rearrange scenes, polish scenes, add scenes or delete them—But I NEVER tackle the real problems—faulty plotting, to include the GMCs and characterizations.

So, I didn’t submit the book to the publisher my dear and trusted friend D’Ann suggested. (Don’t worry; I will submit to her, after I’m finished with the rewrite.) *grin*

I reread what I’ve rewritten thus far and realized how much more I love this story. I’ve always loved it—or I wouldn’t be so bullheaded about rewriting it to get it published. But I never LOVED it. And the reason why I like it so much better now is simple.  The characters have true and honest GMCs—every single one of them. I’ve also added in some suspense with the villain. (In the original versions, the heroine’s husband was dead—in this version, he’s her ex-husband and very much alive and well). Amazing how a couple simple (well, not really so simple) plot changes and re-characterizations can add in the organic motivation and conflict that was missing before.

Originally, The Long Road Home was a secret baby story in which the hero (the father) doesn’t find out until the end. I approached the plot this way because I wanted the story to be different from every other secret baby plot out there.  But in the end, I couldn’t find the right type of conflict. So, let’s see if I hit it by taking some of the secret out of the overused secret baby. The heroine still betrays the hero, but he also betrays her—and they both are betrayed by their mutual best friend (the ex-hubby).

So,  let me know—If you’ve ever completely rewritten a story, how drastically have you changed the plot/characters? Did you like it better when you were done? Or did you hate it?

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16 thoughts on “The Long Road of Rewrites

  1. Congrats on figuring out what your issue with the story was. That’s the hardest part I think. I did actually do a minor rewrite on the story that Lori Wilde just contracted from me for her Indulgence line with Entangled. I had subbed it to 5 agents and 2 of them told me the same thing. They didn’t connect with the hero. So that is mainly where I did my rewrite, then sent it off to Entangled and Lori Wilde told me “I love it”….and that was that. LOL

    I have to admit though, it was frustrating. I find it difficult to change a story that I love so much, but at the same time, when I finished, I did truly find I loved it more. Reworking my hero and giving him a softer side, really made me love him all the more. And I hope that the readers feel the same way.

    Good luck with your submission!!!!

  2. I LOVE rewrites! In fact, I’ll rewrite any day rather than write something new. I know, weird, right?

    One of the very first books I wrote, so many years ago, I absolutely loved and thought it was The One. The book that was going to catapult me into the NY publishers. Alas, I was mistaken. Way mistaken. It took me years of rewrites. YEARS! Like your book, this was the book I learned the craft of writing on.

    I did eventually get it published with Samhain and, boy, was that a great feeling because I knew how hard I worked on it.

    So keep rewriting because it WILL pay off.

  3. Jennifer Lowery~Author says:

    I’ll definitely be here every Wednesday for your blog! Wonderful stuff. I hate writing first drafts. They seem to be the hardest for me. I love rewrites. As a pantser most of my writing is in rewrites. Can’t wait to get R and R letter someday!
    Great post!

  4. Kristina knight says:

    So glad you figured it out! That is half the battle – I’ve rewritten two of my MS’s. One I hated after it was done, one I loved. I think the key is (with the one I now hate) that you make changes you’re comfortable with and that fit your characters.

  5. D'Ann Linscott-Dunham says:

    I’d rather be kicked in the leg than rewrite. Yes, I feel that strongly about it. I’ve quitt a few mss because i didn’t want to rewrite them. Your stamina is amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done though.

    And that editor isn’t going anywhere.

  6. Hemingway said “writing is rewriting.” it’s the nature of the beast and helps us learn our craft. I’ve added chapters and rewritten scenes in a different pov by suggestion/order of the editor. What I hate is when an editor tells me I need to write a certain way. Then when I write the next story, using the techniques that editor wanted, my agent screams, “What are you doing? You know better.” Then she makes me rewrite before she’ll shop it out. Grrrr.

  7. It’s great to hear that you have so much passion for your story and that you’re willing to put in that kind of work to make it shine. I hope this is your last rewrite and you finally snag that agent/publisher!

  8. Let’s see, actual ‘rewrite’ as in from the top down, 1 book, but I did it twice. That was the book originally named Choices for the first version, Love & Lies for Round 2, and finally Blood Rage for the third, and Round 3 ultimately got published. It was an agent’s comment (which he very kindly exchanged some emails about, but rejected to even request the full when I sent him the rewritten work) that pushed me over the edge from L&L to BR. As he put it, the characters did a lot of sitting around & talking, very little actual acting. And he was absolutely right.

    I kinda like rewrites in a way. It’s sick, but I do. It’s much easier to start over and then stitch together a few scenes that actually ‘did’ work into a new quilt. I believe there’s a grand total of 2 scenes (albeit both with some tweaking) that made it through every version and all revision runs.

    Later WIPs got full rewrites, but that’s my way of editing (as in I start from a blank page and literally retype the whole blasted thing).

  9. I think the most important part is having passion in a story and believing in it as you do. I hear ya on the rewrites and the R & Rs. s you know:) Rewrites can be so draining esp when it’s somebody else telling you what they think it should or should not have.

    I’m happy that it was clear to you the issues and what you liked about the story. It’s makes life so much easier when things like that happen!
    XO

  10. Rewrites are the hardest part for me! I can write a million first drafts with no problems. I find that I have to rewrite again and again before the story takes the right shape. Once I figure out the final plot it always seems so obvious, but it takes a long time to get there. Congrats on figuring yours out!

  11. Oh, yeah! I’ve rewritten all of my books at one point. The first, a time travel, was my first try at romance. It was rejected by two publishers, one after a complete rewrite, using advice from contest judges. Then I did another rewrite using advice from my critique group. I sold it on the third try.

    My second book was rejected by the editor who bought the first, but she gave me revision notes and wanted to see it again. I revised, resubmitted and sold it.

    The third book, my new release, also was rejected by my editor. Twice! She gave me one set of revision notes. I did the revision, resent, and rejection again! I put it aside for several months, then tackled the second set of revisions, finally selling it.

    Truth be told, all those revisions were worth all the hard work. I’d do it again.

    The first two books got great reviews and the second one won two published book awards.

    So my advice is, if you get revision notes, get to work. You won’t regret it.

  12. Thanks for stopping by and all of the feedback. Like many of you, I actually love rewriting. I’d rather rewrite a story than start a new one. I always feel like I’m stubbling through the woods in the fog at night when I write a first draft… But with rewriting, I at least have a path to follow and the fog lifts.

  13. I hate rewrites! I much prefer to have GMC & characterization smoothed out and sail through the draft start to end, than having to go back when I hit a wall and figure out what was going wrong. Drives me insane 🙂

    I have rewritten a lot of ms starts – until I got the one that gelled and allowed me to go start to finish. On another, I stopped around 3/4 of the way through, because I simply didn’t like the way it was going (something was off – heroine was too wimpy), and I completely rewrote, from scratch.

    Having to do that on my very first ms now – the one where I learned to write too. It holds the line, but I’ve grown as an author and the story doesn’t reflect where I am today.

    Looking forward to your WW posts 🙂 xoxo

  14. I don’t think rewrites are all that bad, and if an editor gives you feed back on what your MS is lacking, consider yourself lucky. Most do not…
    It’s harder to make your book longer, in my HMO than it is to take away….
    The most important thing is that you learned, and let’s face it, we’re never done learning in the writing business!
    Shh…I’m on my third rewrite !
    Glad to know I’m not alone,
    Neecy

  15. Zee, you’re lucky… I can’t plot. I mean I do–somewhat. But writing that first draft is my way of plotting. Then I rework it until it works.

    Neecy, I totally agree… and my editor did.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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