Traveling the Wrong Road

4 minutes

I hate to re-write. It is tedious and difficult, especially the part where you have to shoehorn in new material between existing sections and then repair the damage to the rest of the story.

In working on my novel (Finding Shelley’s Shoes), I had what at the time seemed to be an epiphany. Up the ante, harden the antagonist, make the story more exciting. And so I did that. I thought.

Fast-forward from then through the three years tied up with the pandemic and leaving my part-time job. I’d spent some of that time dreaming up new-and-improved scenes to make my book better, but there was still the work of fitting it all in seamlessly.

I hadn’t yet gone back and added foreshadows of the new drama, nor had I figured out how my plot could work realistically, something that was necessary for this book. Further, I had only tentatively figured out how to tie this new material into the existing ending with minimal displacement of material already written. This had been a completed draft.

Now my little writing gnome, Wendell, was niggling at my brain.

“Do you really want to write it this way?”

I knew I had to be sure. I was desperate to write the book as well as I could. Didn’t I need the ‘oomph’ that drastic drama provides?

I began thinking about critiques I’d been receiving from my writers group. There is one rule of thumb we all use after being ‘ripped apart’ during a critique (we don’t really work that way; see my Substack post “I Never Thought I’d Do It” to read about our group’s way of critiquing).

Our Rule of Thumb

If only one person is critical of something, it can be ignored. If two people are critical, it’s worth thinking about; and if more than two people are critical of the same thing–something needs to be done.

I think I sighed. It was all too apparent. There was a sort of ongoing complaint–well, criticism–from several group members that I was including side stories that didn’t advance the book’s plot. I included them because “they really happened” (my words). In my fictional world. But even if I’d been writing non-fiction, everything that ‘happened’ didn’t need to be included in my story.

So, okay, note to self; these passages had to be condensed or eliminated entirely. I could do that on the next pass of revisions.

But, how did this affect the question of the changes I’d worked on for months to get right, the scenes that were going to elevate my story?

This time I know I sighed. In fact, I sigh just thinking about it now. The scenes I wrote have not elevated the story but lifted it out of the realm of reality. The writers group had already told me that much.

Now I saw that they didn’t fit. This book is not an adventure book in the sense of wild events or violent action; it’s a book about five sisters going on what may be their last road trip. Even if their history is somewhat dramatic and charged with high emotion, it does not require the kind of storyline I created for them in those scenes, and it never would. Plus, to be honest, I wasn’t writing it all that well.

My sighs were followed by relief. I think I’d known that it wasn’t working. I didn’t need all that furtiveness, danger and drama. Their drama comes from their relationships and life as it really happens. The other stuff has to go.

Now I must undo what I labored to create. I need to repair the ending as well. It may still be altered somewhat though, because I really like leaving the twins behind. (Don’t worry, there’s not enough information there to be a spoiler.)

I took my book down the wrong road, and now I have to take it back. Change is never easy; intentional change is even harder, no matter whether it is changing a lifestyle or 20,000 words of your precious novel. It’s a long way to go back–and then forward again–but it’s a road worth traveling. It makes the trip so much better.

Okay, I plead Guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

I’d like to think we’ve all done it. You know. Procrastinate. Put things off. Lost track of time and/or what we were doing. C’mon, you’ve done it, right? Let something slide because you got busy with other things?

Yes? No?

Okay, so maybe a year is a little much, but, yes, it’s been a year since my last post. I apologize.

To my credit, I’ve re-organized my way(s) of reaching my readers. Well, I’ve organized it. For the first time, really. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of mulling and musing and shaking my head. And a couple of consultations with one of my sons, who also acts as my editor and sounding board for all things writing-related. To be fair, he’s one of three of my kids who can edit for me, but he’s the handiest, and maybe the easiest to talk to, because he understands how I think. He can guide me through my thoughts step-by-step better than I can myself.

I had always tried to link my communications together, re-posting and cross-posting where it wasn’t a problem, then having something unique to each platform.  But the lines would get blurred, and I’d be unsure, hesitant to post, because I wasn’t sure if I was making unnecessary duplicates or if I wasn’t offering the right posts. I thought about it a lot, but all my ideas were a little fuzzy. I couldn’t get a complete picture of what I was trying to do, let alone the best way to do it.

Finally I sat myself down at the computer and made up a table. I headed the columns with the different media sites I used, as well as a couple of sites that were primarily resources but that required as much monitoring as the others. Beneath each heading I wrote down the purpose the site served and the types of posts I wrote for it. Just doing that helped me sort out which posts needed to go where, and when and what material needed to be cross-posted. My excellent son guided me through figuring out which site would take the most effort to support – he was very much aware of my tendency to run out of steam, although he hadn’t realized how much of that was because I hadn’t nailed down what went where. Then I prioritized them by how important I felt it was to keep them current. Just writing it down clarified things and enabled me to set up a rough schedule for when and what kinds of posts to make on each site.

So, I’m starting up again. This site will have top priority, with posts going up 1-4 times a month. The format will remain the same: My books will all be displayed here, and there will be my reviews of other books. The blog will focus on varying aspects of the noveling process, and I will complete the collection of INKAS. Keep an eye out for the next one!

Here are links to the INKAS: what they are and the ones I've already covered:

What are INKAS   .....    TIP   ~ INKAS~  #1

Short Story   ....   TIP ~ INKAS ~ #1.1

Children's Story & Children's Story with Illustrations   .....    TIP ~ INKAS ~ #2

Poetry   .....    TIP ~ INKAS ~ #3

INKA #4 will be up soon: S O N G    L Y R I C S!

Smuggle and Stitch, part 2 – with samples

I promised I would share some examples of this type of revising. This may not be the best illustration I could offer, but I didn’t want to make things run too long. It is taken from my current work-in-progress (wip) about five sisters who set out on what may be the last road trip they will ever take together. Remembrances of their past and revelations about the present threaten their relationships and their future. You might suspect that this is a dense novel – relationships amongst five women equal 25 relationships to illuminate – and you’d be right. So part of the task is telling the whole story fully in as economic a way as possible. Which means I’m in for several passes of revisions.


In these side-by-sides samples, the Original version has blue highlights where I took out the sections that do not appear in the Revised version. The Revised version has the added/new material highlighted all in green.

This revision encompassed three tasks.

  • First, it eliminated unnecessary words. (And, of course, in compiling this post, I’ve noticed more I need to remove, but that’s for another day.)

  • Second, it smuggled in details that were important for the reader to get an accurate view of the scene, and to foreshadow, or at least drop clues to the reader about something the sisters were missing.

  • Third, it stitched in the beginning of my new material, hopefully integrating it with the original material smoothly.

In addition to what is shown here, I had to go through earlier parts of the  manuscript to smuggle in further hints and information so that this section made sense. When I make the next, full-manuscript revision, I will watch out for where my efforts did not work and what kind of fixes they require.

This may be the most difficult kind of re-writing there is. Certainly it holds up a project. But, from past experience, I can tell you it may be the most important kind there is to face down and conquer.

It may be difficult for readers to spot what I mean in these examples. This kind of coaching often works better in an interactive environment. If you have questions about what I’ve done here, or even if you disagree, please feel free to comment and we’ll have a conversation.