Thursday, April 4, 2013

Salvaging An Old Novel Draft - A Writing Journal

After a year of abandonment, I finally read through my 2011 Camp NaNoWriMo novel.  It was my first attempt at writing anything for more than a couple days and the only things I planned out were the character names, and the title of the novel, WonderWonder began as a twist on Alice in Wonderland (which I had never read). However it soon grew to a 30,000 word story about a girl called Alice, a new Earth, a guy disappointing in the art world, a dystopian future, and a somewhat autobiographical description of my old house. Absolutely none of which connected or flowed together.

My “novel” was a collection of poorly written stories that I could not fathom into anything worth reading.  I gave up on editing ten pages in, and planned to resume abandonment. That is, until I looked through it one last time. For my next read through, I kept sticky notes by my side and wrote down anything I could salvage from the draft.  This included anything from sentences, to a couple of words I liked, to whole chapters I could try to work with.

In the end, I had about six sticky notes.  There were four scenes I wanted to rewrite, and two quotes I liked. My horrible rough draft became a few decent short stories. Now when editing seems impossible, I think if the story is in the correct form it should be in, whether this poem should be stretched out into flash fiction, or the prologue to this novella works better alone.

The next time you’re facing a draft that will not cooperate, keep a pad of sticky notes and a pencil at the ready. When editing, think beyond your first impression of the story because most writers never think of shifting their basic framework.

If you can put so much work into writing it, you can at least put a fraction of the work into seeing it in a new way, because I bet Harper Lee never imagined her series of short stories would become a novel. To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic, almost perfect, novel and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Ever had a similar experience? What's your editing process? Leave a comment below!

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