Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A novel from spare parts

When I first started writing with intent, I completed my first “real” novel. Being youthful in my journey toward publication and filled with flattering accolades from my writers’ group regarding my writing skills, when a subset of that group formed around the idea of self-publishing our rejected books with a commitment to hawk them at local fairs and events, I did publish the book.

I soon discovered several things:
· Unless I was autographing and shoving the book into the public’s hand, sales were pathetic

· I knew next to nothing about marketing globally (or even nationally) through social media or Amazon (did I already admit to pathetic sales?)

· My writing skills were not as mature as my ego testified they were (thus all the agent rejections)

I do believe in the story (it’s loosely based on an unsolved true crime). The heroin in the original novel is a young woman who is abducted and the trail of terror that follows. I know from more than one agent not to query a self-published work. So my question is, what if I did a complete rewrite, changing the primary POV to an FBI Special Agent who pursues the abductee? Once completed, would this be considered pitching a self-published work? 

This is a very interesting question.

At what point during a rewrite does a book cease to be a revision, and become a new book?
A POV change is probably a good benchmark.

Your question though is really more along the lines of "are you cheating if you re-purpose a previous book?"

Obviously you won't call yourself a debut author, and you'll make sure the previous book is no longer for sale from you or any one else (that means you buy up any used copies floating around on Amazon.)

And, what's the worst that could happen? Rejection? Well, you're going to get that no matter what book you write, it's part of the game.

Is someone going to come out of the woodwork, waving the self-published book, clamoring for a refund on this new book? Very very doubtful.

The key of course is to write a much better book this time. And given you've gotten more experience, the chances of that are pretty good!

Your question reminded me of the recent news story about Karen Hall revising her first novel Dark Debts.


nightsmusic said...

My question to the OP is, why do you want to continue with this book? Is this the all-encompassing book you HAD to write? Do you have another book in you? If you're looking to pursue any kind of career in writing, you MUST have another book in you. Or twelve more, or 20 more. Because if this is your only story, I wonder whether the effort is really worth it. If it's to say you're published, you are. You've accomplished that. If it's to be a best selling author, one book (with the exception of someone like Harper Lee or two or three others) will not a best selling author make you. Not truly.

That said, if your heart is set on getting this book into a traditional publishing house, you will have to make significant changes. And then what happens to your story? Will it really make your story better? Or worse? How much will it change the story overall? And then, can you still claim it's based, however loosely, on a true crime if you change it enough that you move far enough away from the original subject.

I'd be inclined to put it in the drawer, take all of the knowledge you've gleaned since this first book and write another and see where it takes you.

But that's me. You need to do what's in your heart.

Lucie Witt said...

My R&R I just finished (out to betas one more time before I turn it back in!!!) is a repurposed novel. It's taken many forms over the years - started as a YA urban fantasy, then a weird dystopian-lite, then a dual timeline contemporary .... yikes, it was really a mess. Throughout the revisions there was this core 15k words that made each cut. That was also the part agents responded to most favorably. That 15k is now expanded to a focused, much improved story. I will query some agents* who rejected earlier versions of the manuscript because it is sooooooooo different now. If it's someone who requested a partial or full, I will probably mention this is a new book and hope they don't hold it against me.

Good luck to you, OP!

(*R&R was from an editor, not an agent, hence why I would be querying)

AJ Blythe said...

I'm with nightsmusic on this. Why not write a brand new novel? I think it would be easier to start fresh than to try and rewrite something so it isn't seen to be a rewrite! You're published and nothing will change your debut novel - it will always be your debut.

Unless you're like Karen Hall (interesting read, JR) who couldn't write another novel without correcting her first?

Either way, good luck with your writing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Regarding topic, leaves part, Arte Johnson in his steel combat helmet, pinches his cigarette, looks at the camera and says, “…verrrry interesting.” (If you get it, you’re old.)
Repurposing previous work has been on my back burner for some time now. My columns have covered so many subjects, for so long, that coming up with a new slant is near impossible. I’ve tried, but in all truth they were so perfect the first time why mess with excellence. Hahahaha, what a crock, I’m not pretending to be humble.
Using previously published material may act as a foundation but I wonder when does self-plagiarism become an issue?

Anonymous said...

I have a book that I started a couple years ago. It was going to be a great new twist on the Modern Fantasy novel. However, a stranger told me about the Iron Druid Chronicles and well, there went my story.

So its been sitting there for about a year and a half collecting dust. Could I re-purpose it and turn it into another book?

I don't know. Should I? Well maybe, but my current WIP is ready for agents to reject it. I guess I could hop back on that book, or finish the second one I am writing, while I wait for the hundreds of rejections to come in. Either way, I am still writing, and I need help with my query.


Can my query be meh, and still get a response from an agent, and if My query is meh and I get a response from an agent, should I be worried?



E.M. Goldsmith said...

This makes me sort of pleased that self-publishing was not an option in my misppent youth. If the OP can create a new book from the original, that is likely a good thing.

I have loads of backlog from the shadows of my youth that my more mature self could breathe life into should I want to. In fact, much of my fantasy series was started when I was just a wee child. There are still bits and pieces I wrote thirty five years ago. For this series, I needed those thirty five years of perspective, experience, and practice improving my craft.

Every journey is different. It sounds like OP will be putting new flesh on the bones of an old story. That sounds promising. Just give it a new title. I don't suppose OP used a pen name for self-published work? Oh well, a new title, a fresh new POV coupled with more mature writing covers a myriad of sins. Now I must stop vommenting - I haven't had my coffee yet.

Colin Smith said...

Can I challenge a sacred cow? Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Please miss, can I? :D

What if you really love your book, and you don't have another in you. What if you get that call, and Janet says, "I love this novel, and I've got a gorgeous multi-colored hand-written list of superb editors I think will love it. So, what else are you working on?" and you say, "Nothing. This is it. I've got a great job and a family that keeps me busy. I just had this novel in me I needed to get out."

Is that a microphone drop statement? Does Janet pour all her energy into that one book, perhaps hoping that, in the midst of the excitement over this book, her new client will be inspired to write more--at least a short story or two? Or does she reluctantly turn the writer down, despite the fact she could easily sell the novel, simply because this writer isn't currently working on something else?

Just to be sure, this isn't me. I have other novel ideas for when I've finished the current WiP. But I'm afraid we often set our own passion and enthusiasm for our work as the standard of what all "real writers" should be like. "If you get the heebeejeebees whenever you're not writing, then you're a real writer." Well, I don't. "If you could do anything else other than be a writer, then do it." Frankly, there are other things I could do. My day job isn't at all bad. If I had to do it for the rest of my life, that wouldn't be terrible. But I enjoy writing, and I have stories in me I'd like to see published. Do I lack the requisite do-or-die passion to be a "real writer"?

OK Aaron, I see that sacred cow. You know what you need to do with it. :)

S.P. Bowers said...

Robin McKinley debuted with a beauty and the beast retelling. Years later, as a famous author with a big fan base, she wrote a second beauty and the beast retelling. They were completely separate books, with different characters and plot lines, but apparently she didn't think she got the first one right.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie, what a lot of ambition you have. I'm not so sure I would have the energy to revise a whole novel. Bits and pieces, yes.

The article on Karen Hall? Thought-provoking. Particularly the comment at the end about comparing the two versions. At what point does rewriting/revising take the freshness out of the story?

Colin Smith said...

And about the Karen Hall article--interestingly, I've had similar thoughts with regard to popular vampire/demon possession stories and tropes. They play right into Roman Catholic sacramentalism and (sorry Janet, I'm a Protestant) superstition. Within that system of thought, objects can be invested with power (holy water, crosses, the elements of the Mass). This is how you can have abject atheists as vampire hunters (which has always bugged me--if I was an atheist, and I was confronted with such positive evidence of the existence of the demonic, I would at least be questioning my atheism). But what if the story's dominant spiritual worldview was Protestant? That would rob the objects of their power and refocus the story on faith, and spiritual realities instead of rituals.

Yes, I have a vampire story rattling around inside my head based on this thought. I know, now I've shared it here someone's going to steal my idea. Good job nobody reads this blog. And even fewer people read the comments. ;)

Dena Pawling said...

In that link for Karen Hall, this line stood out to me: “So much of writing well is knowing what to leave out”

I have a WIP that doesn't meet reader expectations for the genre where I originally envisioned it, or maybe ANY genre. But I love the characters and the basic story. I've been sitting on it for over a year, trying to figure out what to do with it. I've emailed several folks and started expanding my reading to different categories, and I finally decided what to do with it, including POV changes and a basic repurposing of the entire thing.

The difference between me and OP is that I never published this WIP in its original form. I agree with EMG, I'm glad self-publishing wasn't as much of an option when this WIP was first completed.

To OP, I wish you good luck. If you believe in your story and your skills have improved, you'll find a home for it.

DLM said...

It's in no way my place to tell another author their vision must be blinkered, but I can at least speak to the necessity (sometimes) of putting away a novel. And it does not come lightly.

OP, I spent ten years learning how to write a novel, and writing it. Some of those latter years, I queried. I learned I had more work to do, I did it, I queried again. What came out of that was a VERY good novel; a good read, a fascinating look at a little-regarded piece of world history. And a book I cannot sell.

It's been a year since I first allowed myself to even conceive of the idea of putting this work away. But I quickly realized it was necessary. Years of my life. A story I still love. All those dreams. And the universe's answer was "no."

Believe me when I say, I know how hard it is. I know how heartbreaking.

But I also know this: to put that firstborn book away, to let it rest, to stop asking more of it than the market can realistically yield ... is LIBERATING.

There is a vindication in just having learned. Just having done. It is worthwhile, all by itself. It doesn't get you agented, it doesn't get you published. But you have learned.

Contemplate that. Stop and look at it.

It might be worthwhile, all by itself.

JulieWeathers said...

First, I believe heroin should be heroine. Sorry for the correction.

The OP will in the end do what he/she wants. If this story really has hold of the heart, it's going to be hard to let go. It was hard for me to let go of Dancing Horses, but I just couldn't force myself to rewrite a book from scratch I'd already written. At least the OP has the bones there to re-flesh.

What concerns me is that the OP hasn't already been working on another book. That should have been the first step as soon as the first book was done. Instead the author is thinking about how to rewrite what's already done. You're a writer. You ought to have so many ideas for books you worry about living long enough to write them all. This is a red flag to me that there is only one. This isn't the Highlander.

Sometimes you need to re-lick that calf, but at some point you should figure out it's clean and leave it alone.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I normally shy away from the whole vampire thing, but I would totally love a vampire meets Colin on Carkoon sort of story. Sure, Bram Stoker would roll about in his grave, but after the whole Twilight thing, his ghost is way too exhausted to cause too much unrest. And Carkoon could use a vampire or two.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I had an interesting experience querying my first 'real' novel. I got some bites (thanks in large part to QueryShark!) and a couple requests for fulls. Nothing came of them. Then I look back a couple of years later and I thank God no one took a chance on that story. It had good moments (and a stellar first five pages, in my opinion) but it needed a lot of work. I was already knee-deep in my next project, so I stuffed it in a drawer.

Am I going to come back to that story? Absolutely. But 25-year-old Bethany would write it completely differently than 18-year-old Bethany, so it will probably end up being an entirely different story. Which is good. I don't want to rewrite the same story, only better. That seems... boring.

So back to the original point, I think OPs in the clear here. I agree with Janet - a new POV makes a very new story. (Didn't Stephanie Meyer try that, before the first chapter was leaked?) I would add one more stipulation: if family and friends who read the first novel would be engaged in the second, then you're good to go.

Anonymous said...

Uh guys... I am not sure if you know this or not, but Carkoon does have vampires, and if Colin can get back and here and help me then maybe I wont die on this writer forsaken rock.

These vamps can run really fast and I am not sure I can keep writing myself out of their way.

Colin HELP!!!

Colin Smith said...

E.M.: I know, we're not supposed to be writing vampire stories. Everyone's had their fill of vampire stories. But I would like to explore this idea and, you know, if I find myself with the time and the frame of mind to write it, I will regardless. I might even query it.

All seriousness aside, I lament that Carkoon is owned by Disney. Not simply because of the Buttonweezer rides, but it means I can't query Janet with LIFE SUCKS, the story of an exiled vampire who finds love in the dust of Carkoon. :)

Donnaeve said...

I read the Karen Hall article in our local paper on Sunday with interest. To write a book that got THAT much attention? Enough that S&S would jump at a the re-write and say, yep, we'll publish it 20 years later? That story is the epitome of how a lot of writers believe the work is never really done. We could tweak our stuff till the cows come home and still see changes we should have made. (ahem, ala Dixie Dupree)Of course, now I want to visit Karen Hall at at her bookstore, Black Bear Books in Asheville. Maybe I will one day.

Anywho - I see no reason why the OP can't do the rewrite, from a different POV, and actually, as s/he gets into it, no telling what else s/he might want to change.

I've got a book that hasn't seen the light of day that I'm considering re-writing for the future. I want to add in a new POV so the story will come from two characters who will share their perspective on a tragedy that has impacted their relationship.

Colin Smith said...

Jason: Sorry, only Janet can move freely to-and-from Carkoon. I'm trying to remember what we did about the vampires. Your can forget about using any kind of holy artifact--there's nothing holy about that godforsaken lump of rock, so you won't find anything of that nature to use. You could try empathy, after all vampires are not native to Carkoon. They are exiled as a severe punishment for crimes against their kind (which includes using glitter and romancing humans). Carkoon's multiple suns doesn't sit well with them. Try engaging them in a "woe-is-us" type of conversation. If you lay it on thick enough, they might get so depressed they'll leave you alone. And if that fails, steal their sunscreen. :)

Susan said...

EM: I wish I could copy and paste your words (stupid smart phone) about needing those years of perspective, experience, and practice because I feel the same way about The Damn Novel. I've been working on this story for ten years--it's the story that consumes me, that I always think about, that I dream about. And while I have a first draft (technically a fourth or fifth draft for how much I've worked on it) and detailed outline, I've had to put it aside time and again because it's not ready. I'm not ready. I'm not mature enough yet as a writer to tackle the breadth of what I know this novel can be. In that respect, I'm sure this will be my magnum opus (at least to me), and I want to give it the chance it deserves. Which means carrying on with other stories that may not loom so large but that also take up residence in the heart. I firmly believe in listening to your intuition--you know when you're ready, you know which stories want to be told and when. It's just a matter of being willing to listen.

OP: I'm a big proponent of self-publishing--it's another path on an incredible journey that works for some authors for what it can offer. But it sounds like you've had some misgivings, which makes me think that the decision was more about the end-result rather than the process. I wrote on Twitter recently that it's great to keep an eye on the island, but you've gotta be aware of the sea that surrounds it and the journey it takes to get there.

Mistakes are always made. Mistakes can be rectified and used as a learning tool. The question to ask yourself is what is it about the book that you published that you wish you could change. Is it the method of publishing that you wish was different or is it the story itself? If it's the latter, then perhaps a rewrite or another book along the same lines is in your best interest, if only to satisfy your needs as the author. But if it's the former, then maybe it's time to see what other stories are stirring within you.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh dear, Jason. I am a zombie so I suppose the vampires stayed away from me during my stay on Carkoon or I simply ignored them. I am terribly anti-social. Take Colin's advice. And gently dissuade them from the whole glitter thing. It's like bad 80s hair.

And Colin, if you write a vampire story, I will totally read it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I nominate Julie's relicking the calf as a sub-header.

Craig F said...

Not enough info but I can see so many possible wells of self delusion in this. To start I have not yet met a writer's group whose primary function was not just to prop up members' egos.

I can see a writers group sitting around the table with wine and munchies.
"We put all of our shit together and we will make a mint."

You finally re-read your work and find it sucks. The question is how you got better. I know you have to have experiences to be able to write about them. You also have to write and write and write and write. You don't say if you have.

If you haven't I would start all the way back at the original plot. Make sure it is close to complete. I think that would do you a lot better than just faking up an FBI viewpoint and slapping it in.

I also think you need something with a higher concept than an abducted girl and the trail of terror that follows.

Good luck and don't forget to write, write, write.

BJ Muntain said...

There are many stories in a single moment. Different points of view. Different effects. Different causes. There have been anthologies where all the stories are different points of view of the same event. You'll also find many stories regarding the same historic event, fiction and non-fiction - I've seen 9/11 stories that are tragedies, fantasies, stories of hope, mysteries, even romance.

As I've seen recently, the same event can be seen differently, even moments later, by different people.

If you ask me, a story about a different person's view of the same event is a completely different story.

The story of someone being abducted and tortured is a horror story. The story of someone trying to catch such an abductor and save the victim is a thriller.

I've seen others do it more blatantly - using parts of an older story in a new one, sometimes as memories, sometimes not (yes, I remembered the original when I read the newer version) - though for the life of me I can't remember specific examples right now.

2Ns: Arte Johnson is an ICON. You can bet your bippy that his "...verrrrry interesting" comments will never die.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Susan (and OP) for that matter, you are not alone in this struggle. J.R.R. Tolkien was no babe in the woods when he completed his masterwork that opened new worlds of thought and literature for all who came after. He was in his fifties.

There are many good writers out there producing what I call great beach reads every freaking year. They make a great living from their work. There's nothing wrong with that. I love beach reads. They take talent to create and boy, are they fun to read. Most agents pray to have a handful of these writers in their stable I am certain.

But it is rare, not unheard of, but rare that great books that withstand the ravages of time, are quickly crafted. It takes a near obsessive focus, and yes, great resolve and patience on the author's part to make his or her book all it can be. Sometimes that means time to grow, to mature, to get some distance and often painfully gained wisdom. So keep after it. This is your soul in words. Take the time to make it count. Especially with that debut novel. After all, there is never a second chance to make a first impression.

Of course, after I get my fantasy series across the finish line, I have my own chorale of beach reads I would love to write and publish.

John Frain said...

My two cents.


Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Is this a shortcut? Writing is really, really hard. In the midst of your so-called rewrite, it will be tempting to pull complete phrases, complete paragraphs, even complete scenes and use them with a word or two changed. Forget that it's similar to the original story, it's your writing before you became so much better.

You're a different person today. A different writer. I don't know if you're a better person, but I bet you're a far better writer. There are new stories. If they aren't percolating in your head right now, that's okay. Pick up a book on craft that has a piece about coming up with ideas. You'll have a dozen good ideas within the week, and you can start outlining the best one. Move forward.

Just for the record, I think telling your current story from a different POV would be a completely different story. But I don't think it's the story you should write.

John Frain said...

Also, I thought this to be the most interesting/hopeful part of the Karen Hall piece:

The plot, like the prose, is tighter, but that’s the confounding thing about novels: They’re often better, or at least more alive, when they’re flawed and messy.

Yessssssss! I have mastered flawed and messy! Agents, here comes my query sooner than I expected!

Karen McCoy said...

If Carkoon is owned by Disney, and there are vampires, does that mean they sparkle? If so, poor Jason is marooned on some very treacherous waters indeed.

This post offers good news: no pages are ever wasted. I'm hoping to sell a previous novel for parts at some point--a story that never melded will probably end up as two separate stories.

Karen McCoy said...

Yes, John! I'm trying to embrace the flawed and messy as well. As a recovering perfectionist, it's a constant battle.

Brigid said...

Colin: Harper Lee. J.D. Salinger. Anna Sewell. Ralph Ellison. Emily Brontë. Boris Pasternak. Margaret Mitchell.

Sorry, Sacred Cow.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: Yes, unfortunately Carkoon's vampire population likes its glitter, which is one of the reasons Carkoon has a vampire population. :)

Brigid: Indeed. These are, of course, exceptions to the rule. But I would hate Opie (or any other writer) to be dissuaded from honing and perfecting the novel they have, thinking they have no hope of getting published because they don't have anything else. Maybe Opie does have other novel ideas. But if s/he doesn't, why not make that one the best it can be and run with it?

Joseph S. said...

I like the way Janet Reid rephrased the question, and I like her answer too.

I read somewhere that some authors have taken one of their successful novels and rewrote the same story, same plot, same characters, etcetera from another character’s point of view. I believe the biggest successes have been in romance novels. If they can do that, the original poster should be able to write his novel from another point of view.

The Karen Hall article mentions Neil Gaiman’s rewrite of “American Gods.” I just finished his “Neverwhere” (the Author’s Preferred Version). I think that book has had like six or seven incarnations as novels, a play, a TV show, a comic book series, and an audio book (with a sequel a possibility).

Dena – One of my problems is I often can see what to leave out but I want to leave it in anyway.

Craig – I agree writing groups can do more harm than good.

Colin - I'm reluctant to even mention the novel rattling around my head. I think it'd be great, but I could see eyeballs rolling if I mentioned it.

Panda in Chief said...

This discussions reminds me of a painter I know that used to ocassionally sneak into people's houses who owned his paintings and touch up things he decided he could have done better the first time around.

True story.

Christina Seine said...

This is a fascination topic. (And so is Colin's question, by the way!)

Part of me says, ugh - start fresh. But I too have a first novel buried in the corner of the backyard (figuratively) and I think, oh my gawd all that work. And the pragmatist in me hates to see anything go to waste. I mean I plant seeds in used egg shells, for Pete's sake (and it's pretty stinkin cute when the little sprouts shoot up, too). How could I "waste" a whole novel, flawed though it is, when it could be re-purposed, upcycled, FIXED even? I mean, at some point my brain thought it was the best idea for a book ever. Maybe my brain was right. Maybe it's worth it. But then my brain says, but what about THIS cool idea? And THIS one? And next thing I know I'm staring slack-jawed at the trees outside, burning the scrambled eggs, lost in the lives of people who don't even exist.

Kae Bell said...

Rewriting to make something better makes sense. But to me, in rewriting/editing instead of writing anew, you cheat yourself of the creative process, where ideas pour forth, unplanned and unknown. To limit your imagination to only rewrite/edit/replace is to limit yourself as a writer. And it is, sorry, IMHO, a little lazy, to linger in the already written word. Put it away. Start the painful process again, staring at the blank page. And now I'll go have my second cup of coffee, clearly much needed for such a grouchy comment.

Christina Seine said...

I just heard the news that Carkoon has been bought out by Disney. This is fabulous!

And after scouring the internet, I came across the preliminary soundtrack, which is still in editing at Disney studios. Bear in mind nothing is set in stone, but it looks like this is the long list:

Carkoon: The Pit of Despair (soundtrack)

Let It Go – the dangers of literally grabbing an agent

I Wanna Be Like You – what not to say to an author at a book signing

Bippety Boppety Boo – an author mangles his elevator pitch and babbles incoherently

I’ll Make A Man Out of You – why there’s no diversity in books these days

Can You Feel the Love Tonight – A song about getting full requests

Go the Distance – About getting sent to Carkoon

Under The Sea – a famous lit agent sings about painting her lair

Oh I Just Can’t Wait to Be King – how writers all feel hitting SEND on their first query

The Bare Necessities – An ode to the tools for writing: Scotch, chocolate & Kleenex

Poor Unfortunate Souls – About writers who fail to read QueryShark (ALL of them)

Kregger said...

2N's...Arte Johnson? Where the H*** did he go? Personally, I preferred Goldie Hawn on that show.

I think the heroine abducted by heroin and the trail of terror that follows is a Midnight Express Redux.(go 1970's)

JW...I haven't been able to bend over to lick my calf in years. I've always admired limber people.

As far as beating the dead horse pulling my cart(also called my MS)...I'm now beating the horse next the dead one. It's still breathing, but barely, and I'm still not moving any faster. Crazy behavior? Only if I expect something different.

I was in Key West a few weeks back and visited Hemingway's house. Very interesting, especially if you like polydactal cats. The guide said he rewrote The Old Man in the Sea...fifty times. I saw his manual typewriter. Writers of that era were a different breed of cat.

So. My answer to the OP is yes, you can be the next Earnest/Earnestine. It is possible.

I did ask how Hemingway had the time and money to write eight hours a day, drink eight hours a day and philander the night away.

Surprise-surprise, he married rich. Lather, rinse and repeat.


JulieWeathers said...


You get the first laugh of the day award and I needed it. Maybe I can write something now instead of wanting to beat people.

Hemingway often rewrote endlessly. He said he threw away 99 pages for every page he kept. However, this was a revision process. He didn't go back and rewrite The Old Man And The Sea from the pov of the fish. He admitted to writing 37 different endings to For Whom The Bell Tolls, but there are actually 49 different endings I think. A new edition of the book is going to show all 49 endings.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kregger, Laugh In was an amazing show at an amazing time. I'd say someone should resurrect it but it could never be like the original.


Bethany Elizabeth said...

Christina just made my week! :)

I understand what some of the others (Kai and John Frain in particular) are saying, but I'm not sure I agree. This could be a genre distinction. I feel like thrillers (I'm assuming OP's novel is a thriller) often depend a lot more on plot, especially if they're stand-alone. Coming at it from a fantasy viewpoint, however, I don't think you should have to give up characters you've developed in a world you love because your first try wasn't good enough.

Here's my point: if you're talented, determined, and hard-working, it can be done. Absolutely. If you consider writing a different novel but your heart keeps calling you back to this one, then go for it.

Also, Panda, I would read the heck out of a novel that featured your painter friend. Or a flash-fiction entry! :) There's a lot of potential for shenanigans there.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Christina, I love that soundtrack for Carkoon via Disney.

Kregger- great story. Sadly, years ago I turned down a proposal from a very nice young man who within five years became extravagantly wealthy. So I will not be the next Hemingway. But I can live with being the one and only me. After all, I am not much of a philanderer. But I could do the 8 hrs writing and well, got to love Hemingway's Whiskey.

Janice Grinyer said...

Why does the song "let it go" come to mind?


A Parody to remind myself...

"The screen glows white on the desk tonight
Not a new sentence to be seen
A novel of desolation
And it looks like there’s no Theme

The keys are silent, like my floating thoughts inside
Cant get it out, heavens know I tried

Don’t go backwards, don’t let yourself slide
Be the good writer that wont have to hide
Reveal, don’t steal, don’t rewrite the old
Well, now I know

Let it go, let it go
Don’t hang onto that thought anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and write some more!

Here I type
In the dark of night
Let the old novel DIE

The plot never made sense anyway."


Back to my proposal. Everyone have a wonderful day!

Kate Larkindale said...

Sometimes it's hard to let a story or characters go. I have one book I originally wrote as a dual POV YA. After some advice from my (then) editor, I re-wrote it from one character's POV and made it into an adult book. I didn't like it nearly as much and then my publisher went bust so I never found out what the editor thought or even if she read it. Every now and then I think about dragging it back out to see if I can make it work as the dual POV, but use some of the parts I wrote for the other version for the man's sections.

But somehow there are always other books to write and other books to revise.... One day I'll have Hemmingway time and will be able to write four and revise four books a year.

Joseph S. said...

The only thing I've ever written 49 times were the checks to the mortgage company.

JulieWeathers said...


I have a collection of vampires. Since we derailed onto the subject, I got to thinking about one of them and posted her story on my blog. The thing is, no one can tell the story you have in your head. Tolkien's books drew heavily on history and mythology. How often have those things been written about?

I think you'll do just fine. Only you can write like you.

Adele said...

Am I the only one who read the Karen Hall piece and got totally stuck at the whiskey bottle hurling? Would it really break into a thousand pieces? Because I've dropped a full bottle of whiskey onto pavement and it neither broke nor chipped. Haven't hurled one, but whiskey bottles are strongly made and frankly I can believe it would break, perhaps into a few pieces, but not a thousand. Plus, who counted them all?

All the rest of the article swirled past my brain in a haze of priests and the nature of love without me much noticing because I was stuck on the whiskey bottle. An important writing lesson, I think.

Janice Grinyer said...

Adele, I like the cut of your jib...

Anonymous said...

~Weez ~weez. Guys, nothing is working, I told them how their glitter looked like pixie dust from the 80's and they just bared their fangs at me and kept coming.

Then, well you know me, I started singing opera to them, and that seemed to slow them down for awhile; but when I got winded they hissed and started chasing me again.

Look guys, I could really use your help, I am not a marathon runner, and I am not sure how long I can keep this up. I am going to be the first Carkoonian to die on Carkoon from being drained by a bunch of pixie-dust coated, bad hair having, gentle blood sucking vampires.

Colin that vampire your talking about, the one who is love sick, he keeps singing Frank Sinatra.


JulieWeathers said...


The only thing I've ever written 49 times were the checks to the mortgage company.-- hahaha

Oh heaven help me I've rewritten something fifty times. I'm not sure what that says about me. I am reminded of the definition of insanity. I can't think about it now. It's nap time at the asylum and all the rain crows are coming in to roost.

John Frain said...


She's saving that edit for the third edition, due out 2036. One-trick Karen, they're gonna call her on her tombstone.

Brigid said...

Christina: BRILLIANT.

Unknown said...

OP says, "Thanks to all for your widely varied counsel and to JR for her always poignant revisions of the original question."

Yes, I have other novels in me, one of which is in the query process now (thus the enhancements (or at least sharpening of the blades) in my toolbox, if I may borrow from King).

So, the question I must answer is: does the motive to rewrite come from laziness (plot, characters, over 90,000 words just needing some polish and new backstory)or from my muse (the true crime's actual victim who was murdered in 1980 and whose apparition appeared at the same moment, yet separately, to my wife and I some 20 years later). No, as a general rule I don't see dead people. Odd Thomas I am not. But there is a compulsion burning in my heart which suggests a wider audience should know about Valerie's tragedy, even if it's only referenced in the author's preface.

Thanks again

RachelErin said...

I've enjoyed this discussion because my current WIP is a reworking of my first not-novel, and I've asked myself if it makes sense to even call it the same book at this point.
I've changed the world inspiration, the villain's backstory and motivation, the order of the first half, the ending, more the ending, all the family relationships, and the climax.
I've kept about 5 or 6 characters, but two have been dramatically altered. The title is the same, but the meaning of it is different.
I kept the MC's journey, her wish, her quest, her choice. That I couldn't let go.
My first attempt was like when you learn to knit, and you end up with a shapeless, holey, whatever-it-is. But most of the time you can frog it and reknit the yarn into what it was meant to be.
I do have a lot of other ideas. One is fun, one is dark, one is a sequel, one is another world.
I made myself a schedule, both for the first draft and the editing. If it's not good enough for beta readers by May, I'm trunking it. If it's not ready (or really close) for querying by October, I'm trunking it.
If life is measured in stories, I have many threads to spin.
But it's not the story's fault that it was my first attempt. Her journey deserves more.

BJ Muntain said...

Jearl O.P. Rugh - you're right. You're the only one who can answer that question. I can see why it's important to you, and I can see why you want to get as many readers as possible.

I have a friend who's rewritten a couple older (non-published) novels to get them to his current skill level. What he does is he simply types them out again from memory and imagination, not by typing from the original or cutting and pasting. He types what he remembers - which is the story more than the actual words. If you truly want to write a new story about the same topic, why not leave the old version alone, and actually write it anew? You'll find your skill and voice come out stronger that way, less diluted by the older skill level.

Anyway, I seem to have the unpopular view here. But I don't see what's wrong in writing a different story about the same topic.

Janice Grinyer said...

Jearl - sounds like your Muse is telling you something! Thank you for commenting too :)

Speaking as a reader right now, not as a writer, in my opinion (and pocketbook) once a novel is published, self or traditional, it's out there. To read a revision because a writer wasn't satisfied is not something I would purchase. As a reader, we invest time and money into stories published- I'm not interested in spending money on revisions.

For my book budget, if I have a new novel, and another's novel's revision in hand, the revision gets reshelved, and I purchase the new novel.

BUT I will purchase a series, a continuation if the writing improves from the first novel. The second can clarify, and build. If the second is a knock-out, then we can't wait for the third :)

I think my pocketbook is done speaking now; it's telling me to get back to work so we can buy more books... :D

Janice Grinyer said...

B.J. Mountain - I think editing one's work is fantastic - it's meant to be done. Over and over and over and...well, you get the idea! until it is ready to be published. There are many articles and books written about identifying works that are ready to be published.

But to edit one's work that is already published? It's kind of like remodeling a house when its only a year old. Sure, it could make it EVEN a better house, but isnt it better to get it right the first time around?

Hence the editing when its unpublished :)

JulieWeathers said...


It sounds like you have an interesting story. Only you can decide what is best. So have a long talk with yourself.

Three heads are better than one, by the way.

Kae Bell said...

At the risk of seeming cheeky, but asking in all seriousness, what would Valerie say? Perhaps her voice is that which should be loudest here.

Good luck!

Theresa said...

I agree with BJ and think Jearl should rewrite. It sounds like there is something about the story he can't let go of. I find it an intriguing challenge.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Rewrite it, repurpose it, improve it and pitch away.

If I am correct in reading your deepest wish, you want your novel to sell better than it has been. A quality product will help with that. A rewrite will help with that.

But here is a secret that a lot of people don't know: Books sell better when they're not only children. If a book has siblings (or at least cousins), they sell better. Book One will have better sales if Book Five and her sisters are out there as well. There's a wee bit of research out there to support this.

So if you've got other books and you intend on wooing an agent with them and she woos and wins an editor and the other books get published, the chances of more readers seeking out your rewritten Book One increase.

By all means, rewrite your first book. Your heart has loved it the longest. If Valerie's story is calling to you, then follow it. The cool thing about being pre-published is that you have the time and the wiggle room to indulge in this sort of thing.

What matters most to you: this one book getting more readers, or this book making more money? While the two often go hand-in-hand with a quality product, if getting more readers is the most important thing to you, indie publishing it and setting it up as a permafree will do that.

BJ Muntain said...

Janice: Yes, editing should be done before being published. But Jearl published prematurely. Does that mean the novel should languish? Especially if the story means something important?

Self-publishing is a funny beast sometimes. I know of some self-published authors (who have a few-to-several self-published novels out there, not just one) who will revise after they press 'publish'. It's a lot easier to do that sort of thing, go in and fix typos, etc., with electronic formats. We're not used to that sort of thing with print publishing. Once something is published in print, it's published (until further printings, anyway).

But neither Jearl nor I were talking about editing. We were talking about rewriting - Jearl from another POV, me from scratch.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

A question every author should ask themselves: What is my Fifty Year Plan?

Sometimes we authors are plagued with impatience. I know its dark brush tars me from time to time. Sometimes we fall in love with our work and our first instinct is to share this love with the world.

How many times have you heard someone else say, "I just wanted to get it out there."

If one is to send one's baby out into the world, at least wash her face and put a clean pinafore on her.

But if we wish her and all her sisters to be successful, it helps to have a long view.

Fifty years is almost long enough.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Colin, interesting you should mention the idea of objects imbued with power. I've written an entire series where objects are able to be imbued with power, kind of like magical batteries.

BJ Muntain said...

Duchess, my 50-year-plan is to live another 50 years. Even longer. To be a supercentenarian like my great-great aunt. Because I have a lot of stories to tell, and it's going to take me at least that long...

Christina Seine said...

Jearl, so glad you commented! Now to me, your story - of being visited by Valerie's apparition and then feeling so compelled to write her true story - is really fascinating. I adore true crime. And true crime tv shows. But a true crime framed within a true ghost story? Just shut up and take my money! If you do return to that book, and I hope you do, maybe you might consider adding the (very cool) aspect of a novel writer literally haunted by the story he's telling.

Panda in Chief said...

Gee, now Bethany Elizabeth has given me an idea....hmmm. Well, we'll see if this will turn into a story or not! It could have all sorts of twists in the application.

roadkills-r-us said...

Thanks to Panda, I'm now envisioning myself sneaking into people's homes and revising their copy of my novel. But my pen skills are so poor they'd know right away someone had tampered with the book. Assuming I didn't get shot, this being Texas, and me skulking around in the middle of the night like a damn fool.

As for whoever said we are tired of vampire stories, I don'ty think that's true. I think we're tired of an endless mountain of cranked out vampire stories using vampires as a vehicle to drive sales. A good vampire story will likely aways sell.

Just my two zorkmids.

Janice Grinyer said...

BJ - got it.

Heidi - once again, eloquently put!

Roadkills-R-Us - finding out that our Mother's familial last name is directly linked to Vlad the Impaler was an eye-opener, to say the least. No wonder we enjoyed the mockumentary "what we do in the shadows" waaay too much last year...

Anyhow, all this conversation brought up a perplexing question from me (ima full of them) -

Janet, can a person plagiarize themselves?! if they rewrite a self-published novel leaving certain portions untouched when presenting it for representation? Or would the contract have to specify copyright on the initial self-published novel too?

roadkills-r-us said...

Janice, have you gone to visit Vlad's old homestead? I have always wanted to see that area. And I'm a wee bit jealous. Partly just because, and partly because it could make for great marketing.

Janice Grinyer said...

I haven't - but there is a company called "highpointe equestrian tours" that offers riding through a section of Romania where there are virtually no gas engines around (auto or tractor)and one of the side trips is Bran Castle - can you imagine the "fuel" for the writer's mind with a trip like that? Its on my bucket list :)

Unknown said...

Christina I love that idea. Hummmm, motors throbbing now.

I didn't sleep too much last night as I feared I had over stepped with the woo woo. And then I got to thinking about the title JR put on this post. "Spare Parts?" Isn't that what Frankenstein's monster was built on? Who knew it could be that easy. A few rightly placed bolts, charge the paddles, trigger the electroshock treatment and, presto, a rewrite on the NYT bestsellers list.

And for any who might wonder, no, I'm not a robot but thanks for asking.