Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recycling is for everyone: even writers – NaNoWriMo

I mentioned in my last blog that I ended up using my old story “The Grey Man” as the basis of the story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. Is this cheating? Doesn’t this mean that I can copy and paste the material that I did write into the contest and boost my word count. Well, I could, but I didn’t.

First off, that draft was written about four years ago, and my style and skills have improved since then (just reading some of my older work brings a shudder to my body even if I smile at some of the good stuff). The original version had a prologue that was very redundant. It was the first to go in the new version. I wrote an entirely new chapter to open the story. Initially I didn’t show you Adrienne’s revenge. I was more interested in her adjustment back into life. But looking at the story now, I felt that showing the reader what she had to do and how cold she became was an important base. It also gave me the opportunity to show a bit of foreshadowing, which is always fun.

Next, I removed all the police material. While Adrienne’s father was a detective, and knew people on the force, I kept them in the periphery. In fact I took the character of the detective from the first draft and turned him into the older mentor police chief in this new version. The original chief was pretty cookie cutter, while the detective was a more rounded character. So I took the more rounded character and put him in the key role. Sadly his partner Kasumi had her part cut considerably. She’ll show up as a side character, maybe have two scenes at the most.

Adrienne’s childhood friend Rachel also received a make over. In the original draft she was supposed to be a successful business woman, but behaved like a wet blanket and was a total pushover. Just reviewing her dialogue made me embarrassed. No way could this woman run her own business. My parents have run their own business for years and it takes assertiveness and guts. Rachel still needed to run the business, its part of her story with Adrienne. So she got a rewrite and I think she’s a much more interesting character. She’s tough but understanding. Hopefully the reader will get the strong connection between the women without all the fawning and pathetic dialogue from the original draft (shudder).

I also rethought the supernatural element of the story. I don’t want to say to much about it, but in the original draft it was actually pretty pedestrian in the execution. This time I added a new element that makes will make this a bit more complicated for Adrienne to resolve and hopefully more interesting to read about.

In addition I created a bit of a subplot involving another of my long existing characters. He’ll pop in to deliver some “Book of Thoth” type information, but with his usual deadly spin. That element just came to me last night and I think it will add to the tone of the book.

With all the changes there is no way I could cut and paste the puppy together. I’m re-writing from scratch. The only element I lifted was a poem and I even edited out a few lines from that (because they referred to the old version of the supernatural element). The poem was really a space saver. I’m not a poet, but I want to come up with something a bit more acceptable than what I have now. But the idea is there and I captured it well enough in the original to keep it without many changes.

So basically my recycling is just that, recycling. I’m taking an idea that I had, rethinking it, reworking it and rewriting it. The initial idea is solid. It just needed four years to find all the right parts and maybe four years of writing experience to improve it.

Have any of you writers ever read your older work and said, “Wow, what was I thinking?” Did you ever start writing something and had a neat side idea pop into your head? Were you able to work it into the story or did you take into a new story idea?

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