The epic rewrite of epicness
I’m pretty happy with the first 23,000 words of the rewrite. That is, I was. Now I’m at what used to be chapter five and … well let’s just say it needs a lot of work. I’ve had a preliminary read through and made notes on what needs to happen. We meet a new character just before chapter five, and she becomes a viewpoint character in this chapter.
She’s developed since draft zero of book one. Book two reveals some of her backstory. Her most important role is the impact she has on the main characters. Having her as a viewpoint character just feels a bit redundant. It makes chapter five a bit like a collection of the characters reacting to the same things.
Rewriting isn’t just about tinkering with sentences and getting rid of adjectives. Sometimes it’s about acknowledging that something – a character or maybe a plot twist for example – isn’t right. This rewrite is really making me understand what Stephen King meant when he said:
“kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribblers heart, kill your darlings.”
I’ve just read a very long and detailed blog post on how to rewrite. (Lot’s of good advice, and it’s a helpful reminder that no one, not even experienced authors, writes a perfect draft zero.)
You’re unique, just like everyone else
Some years ago, after writing draft zero and feeling quite pleased with myself (in my own youthful way), I sat down to watch a Star Wars film. At some point along the way, something caused me to slap myself on the head and scream. I had written something I was pretty proud of and here I was watching a similar dynamic playing out on screen.
Had I ripped off Star Wars?
Then it began. I’d pick up a book – old or new – and a scene or plot twist would jump off the page and remind me of draft zero sitting on the hard drive. It took me a few years to realise that there are no new ideas.That certain plots are done to death (the popular ones) and that character archetypes do exist.
It’s the way that the writer combines them, tweaks them, and writes about them that makes them different. As Susan Dennard wrote: “Only you can write your story in your particular way.”
Susan Hill has written a detailed article on characterisation for The Telegraph.
It reminded me of a conversation I had this week about people you know thinking that you’ve written about them. It would be hilarious if anyone I knew thought I was writing about them. I’m writing a speculative fiction book featuring possible other worlds, the afterlife and wars. I’d love it if Eddard the Account Manager* thought I’d transformed him into an ancient warlock, or a bitter warlord out for revenge.
We all have certain character types shaped by our psyche and our environment, and we write characters with similar attributes. One of the best things about reading a book is being able to see parts of ourselves in the character, to identify with them. That’s great if it’s some mysterious, famous author who you’ve never met, but when it’s Goldberry in HR* writing the book, it can suddenly become a bit suspicious (and funny).
* For the record, I don’t work with anyone called Eddard or Goldberry…unfortunately.