We all have to do it, even if we hate the thought of it--rewriting. Sometimes there is no way around it. Even the best plotted story can run into a roadblock, or the story written into the mist can hit a hall before you even know what is happening. Suddenly you can't move forward. Suddenly the characters are not working. We'll look at how to rewrite the story in coming weeks but for today let's look at how to figure out when you've hit a roadblock and there is no other way around it but to re-write.
Currently I am working with my co-author, Sue Viders, on a new book with a series of writing tips. We just finished a book on Creating A Villain, and now we're moving forward to help writers who may be starting out on their writing journey. These tips will be focused on all types of writers – from those who write into the mist like me and those who are very focused on form and structure like Sue. As we are working on the book we are again not only learning about our own characters and plotting methods, but we are also getting new ideas for what writers can do when they hit a wall in their writing. Here are some ideas you might find helpful:
1. The characters are not cooperating. I listed that above, but that is a big way to realize that you are heading in the wrong direction. If they don't seem to work in the scenes you are writing, you may be taking them in the wrong direction. Look over what you wrote earlier, look over your character profiles, and look over the characters themselves. If they aren't working, then you need to re-think where the plot is headed for these people. You may need to do a little re-writing that will send those characters back in the right direction.
2. You just don't want to write. Sure, there can be many, many reasons for not being able to just sit at the keyboard and having the words flow. But often the problem is that you've hit a point in the plot where the story is going nowhere. You may need to read over your plot again to make certain that it is going where you want it. This might be a good time to re-evaluate your plot and whether it can work in the way you originally planned. It might be time to consider re-writing some of the earlier pages or planning changes in the plot.
3. The story is going in some totally foreign direction and you aren't sure why.
Again, this may be that your plot is not working. This is a good time to try re-writing a few pages and perhaps trying a new direction to see whether you like the re-write better than the original. If you do, then keep heading in that direction.
4. The villain is getting more important than the hero.
This might be a function of not having the write characters in the right roles. Again, it might be time to make that hero stronger, or to change the direction of the villain. And if you're going to have a super-villain, great! Just make certain you are setting up the story that way. That might mean a re-write of some of the earlier pages, but they might also be fun to write with this new bad guy. If you need help with villains, our new book is now available at Amazon.com. Sue and I had a great time putting it together. It includes all our favorite villains.
5. The motives are not coming through.
Perhaps what you have your characters doing doesn't ring true. They wouldn't take those sort of risks for no reason. Perhaps you need to re-write those motives to make them stronger, or to make those changes in your characters to make them want something more. Motivation is a big factor for your characters' actions. You need to make them strong enough.
If you do find you have to do a re-write, don't despair. Sometimes that re-write can make a book much better. It might even give you an idea for a new book!
This weekend I will be teaching a class on writing comedy for Savvy Authors in their annual Savvy Con for writers. www.savvyauthors.com and next week I begin a three-part series of classes for beginning writers.