The anatomy of a book rewrite is proving to be fascinating as well as frustrating. It’s a great deal of work, but also a true labor of love because I get to revisit favorite characters, fixing them up and fleshing them out so they’re better, more relatable, and more believable than before.
Since I’ve been making plenty of notes along the way, I thought sharing my journey of turning previously written books into fresh, shiny new ones, might prove interesting for both readers and fellow writers.
I’ll be releasing the rewritten books as an indie writer this time. Indie publishing gives me much more control over style and content.
My oldest books were written in the mid 1990s. The first book I’m rewriting is Polly’s Perilous Pleasures, which was written in early 2004 and published in 2005. As you can imagine, much of the technology mentioned in my older books is all but obsolete. Huge advancements in technology and the way we communicate with each other make updates crucial. I have characters using answering machines, pay phones and car phones. There’s no texting. No Facebook, Twitter or Google. Computers and email either weren’t available, or not yet in wide use. Without careful rewriting, my new releases could be laughable...and not in a good romantic comedy way.
I had a pivotal scene in PPP that took place in the bedroom when a phone call came in and the answering machine clicked on. It was crucial for the hero and heroine to hear the message at that time, but I realized as I read the scene that I’d either have to scrap the idea or use a cell phone and voicemail, or some other method of getting the information across to the reader. The option I chose entailed a rewrite of the scene, using a cell phone...which I finally chose to cut out altogether (*ack!*) because I thought of something much better that night (in the middle of the night, about 3 a.m., when all book ideas seem to nag at me) and changed everything the next morning. Since the rewritten scene is really good, I’ve saved it in a file for possible use in another book (I do that for all the material I’ve cut if it’s of good quality). So that involved some wasted time but, ultimately, the book is much better for it.
While working on this first rewrite, I’ve made several significant discoveries, the first of which is realizing how much this project makes me like a cross between Albert Einstein (oh the rewriting formulas I’ve had to create!) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (you know, the mad scientist who created the monster).
We share certain traits, necessary for successfully completing an expertly produced rewrite. For starters, we’re all forward thinkers, all creative geniuses, and Dr. Frankenstein and I are both craz--
I’m certainly not implying my new books will be monsters. (Aw, look at Daisy’s little baby Frankenstein romance book...cootchie-cootchie-coo) ...
But they will have undergone the cruel, savage process of having their guts, nerves and brain matter ripped out, leaving only the heart and soul intact. The book innards worth salvaging will be diced up, rearranged, sewn and pasted neatly back where they belong. The old innards will be enhanced by the addition of shiny new innards, freshly generated by my tiny creative genius brain.
Here’s where my likeness to Einstein comes in...
The first thing I did was to read the entire published manuscript of 54,745 words from beginning to end.
When Polly’s Perilous Pleasures (my new working title is EXERCISING HER OPTIONS) was released in 2005 it had 54,745 words. After reading through the manuscript in preparation for the rewrite, the first thing I did (after plenty of cringing, wincing, swearing, whining and whimpering the entire way through because I realized the original manuscript was a catastrophe) was to cut out the last four chapters of the original book (12,260 words). I decided they didn’t belong in this book, although they’ll be a perfect addition to the rewrite of Accidental Foursome (to be retitled), PPP’s sequel. That left me with a book of only 42,485 words and no real ending.
The next thing I did was to add 3 brand new chapters (15,700 words) to the beginning of the new PPP. Now the book had 58,185 words. Two new characters are introduced in those chapters and both will have their own books later in the series (my working series title is GREEK DELIGHTS and this is book 1). Since there are 8 sexy, Greek Kokoris brothers, I’m planning to write 9 books (Accidental Foursome is an extra book featuring 2 brothers who will also have their own books as well).
As of this writing, I’m at 69,300 words on the new book, which means I’ve added 26,815 new words. It actually comes out to a lot more than that because I’ve cut huge scraps and entire paragraphs and blocks of text along the way, completely rewriting them (or simply discarding them because they totally sucked).
I have 1 more chapter from the old manuscript left to rewrite and I need to add about 2 more brand new chapters toward the end, which will add some much needed conflict to the original story. So I’m close to being finished. Unless I make additional changes (I’ve discovered anything is possible during a rewrite and to always expect the unexpected), it appears the final book will probably be between 80,000-90,000 words.
I hope you’ll stay tuned to this blog because there are so many subjects I plan to tackle in this blog series about The Anatomy of a Book Rewrite, including:
Killing your darlings
How to show rather than tell
How to build believable conflict
Which words to savagely cut from your manuscript
How to handle foreign accents and words
How to write a satisfying romance with lots of sex, rather than a sex book with some romance thrown in
How to write romantic comedy without having it come across as silly or stupid
How to create heroines that aren’t annoying or, worse yet, TSTL (too stupid to live)
How to write believable dialogue
How to spot and correct dangling or misplaced metaphors
When to use correct grammar and when to forget it
How to create compelling character names
How to create satisfying, passionate love scenes without writing something smutty
What to do when trying like hell to come up with different words to describe body parts or the sex act
And that’s just for starters.
I’ll update as often as possible (with illustrations if I have the time), but probably not more often than once or twice a week because, after all, I’ve got 20 books to rewrite! :-o
Also--I plan to have some contests once my rewritten books are available. I think they’ll be fun.
NOTE: If you know of any writers who might benefit from what I’ll be discussing in this series, please do share my blog posts with them. Those of you who’ve known me for any length of time (especially those of you who have contacted me for writing advice over the years) know that I’m a great believer in writers generously helping their fellow writers--and that I practice what I preach. There’s plenty of room at the top and I’d love nothing better than to see us all get there, stay there, and celebrate together! :D
Until next time...