Should You Re-Write a Story That Is Already Complete?

Before my epic writing break (which you can read all about here in case you missed the last post), I would have thought it impossible to re-write my YA novel The Dream Parade from scratch.

I was done.

I had written two solid drafts and spent countless hours editing, reading and re-reading the work – pretty much ready to publish part one. I even had decent feedback on my work from beta readers. 

So, why would I choose to do it all over again?

The simple answer is: I had a gut feeling that, in spite of all the work I had already put into the novel, I still wasn’t ready to get on with writing the next book in the trilogy and that’s a bad sign.

The story didn’t flow and no amount of polishing the narrative could have fixed it. I had done too good a job of tying up loose ends and simply didn’t know where to take it from the end of the first book.

There was no story left to tell.

So, in early 2019 I came back with a strategy. I needed to stop writing by the seat of my pants and invest the time to finding the right method to not only re-write the novel but to get the story right this time.

I needed more characters, more complex relationships, more conflict. Put simply: my characters didn’t have a bad enough time. Once my protagonist hit the point of no return, the stakes were just too low.

Was it a painful process to discard what I previously thought of as perfectly adequate prose and writing process, write a synopsis, character profiles, and a list of all my new scenes containing the added complexity my story previously lacked?

Yes, siree!

Was it a dull, at times seemingly meaningless, exercise that felt like squeezing blood from a stone?

Yes, at times.

But to come to the most important question: did it help?

As I am now in the throes of re-writing a story that I previously thought couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be re-written, I would say that I have adequate proof to claim that I made the right decision to go back to the drawing board (quite literally).

Whilst I don’t advocate for endless-tweaking (Seth Godin is right to claim that every creative must ‘ship it’ eventually) I don’t believe in shipping low quality, thoughtless products that won’t work.

So, where do you stand on this debate? Pantsing or plotting and have you ever gone back to re-write (and fix) a story that was already complete? Let me know in the comments…and…a happy Sunday to you all.


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