I never thought rewriting Kodiak would be easy. I’ve always known success or failure depends on if I have the endurance to push through the rough parts.
When I got my story back from the first round of test reading and read all the comments they gave me I was prepared for it to sting; that it would be difficult and most likely result in a temporary creative setback.
What happened was quite the opposite. I felt such relief because my gut instinct about the story was right. It was all going so well; I couldn’t type fast enough. So, I was utterly unprepared when the story suddenly stopped cooperating, and I got stuck. Fourteen chapters into my second draft I hit a wall and couldn’t get past it.
I kept going through the chapters over and over because it felt wrong and I knew I couldn’t move forward with the next part of the story before I fixed it. Every piece of writing advice I’ve read says you’re not supposed to go back in the text only forward. But I felt, and still do, that to move into what is the second act of the story, I had to have my characters set, and I couldn’t get a grasp on them.
It was a surreal experience because I was sitting there knowing exactly what I wanted to write but everything felt off somehow. The writing felt fractured.
I’ve been going back to the text on and off for weeks trying to figure out what the problem is, but also allowing myself to step away, to not think about writing for days on end.
Then I finally realized what the problem was. Part of it at least. Before I finished the first draft and sent it off to test readers, I did a lot of editing. Then I started the second draft and big chunks, sometimes even whole chapters of new, rough text were pushed into it. So, when rereading I’d read one page of smooth text, and they hit three pages of new text; every time I hit a rough patch of writing, it threw me.
Which is probably the very reason they say you shouldn’t go back a reread what you’ve written and just keep pushing forward. But in this case, it wasn’t an option because the ideas and changes didn’t all come to me neat and tidy, chapter by chapter in an orderly fashion, but jumbled and unorganized. Rewriting something in chapter six unlocked new information about my characters I needed to fit into chapter three.
So, against all advice, I decided to do some rough editing, to put the new text through my editing software and tighten it enough not to stand out so blatantly. It helped.
I guess I’m doing this all wrong, but if it keeps me writing, if it helps me make sense of my story and moving forward I don’t care. I’m still not happy with it, I still cringe when I read, and sometimes I think I should have just deleted everything and started over from scratch. But that’s part of being in a rough patch, you don’t always love your story, sometimes every word feels wrong, and your writing seems childish and unskilled.
Writing is really hard. It’s lovely when you’re in a period of inspiration, or the words you put down are fantastic; when you connect with your characters. But you’re not always in that place; you spend a lot of time doing grunt work. You still get good words down on paper but it isn’t inspiration, it’s hard work that puts them there. Leafing through dictionaries and spending more time on thesaurus.com that in your document. Staring into space for hours on end or standing in the middle of your living room making weird poses because you’re trying to figure out the best way to describe the anatomy of that thing your character is doing.
This is a first for me. I’ve never written a second draft before; never ripped my story apart intending to put it back together in a different way. I don’t have a process for this worked out yet. Right now, editing, even though I probably shouldn’t, is the grunt work I need to do to reconnect with this story. That doesn’t mean the story is stagnant; it’s changing and evolving.
I would love to be in one of those periods when the words come so easy, and the characters feel real enough to touch. I’m not. All I can do is put in the work and remember that you can write on walls.
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