Don't Fear the Rewrite

About ten years ago (yes really, that long ago) I got the idea for the novel that I'm currently working on. It came in the form of a prologue. I know prologues are out of vogue, but I've checked and rechecked my reasons for having one, and I'm definitely sure it's the way to go. I wrote the prologue and was pretty happy with it. In the intervening years, I have outlined and written about half the book, other short stories, researched, had a career in corporate training, had two children, bought a house, sold a house, and generally lived a life. All of those things have contributed to my maturing as a writer. So, last year when I picked the novel up again after a hiatus, I read the prologue and was thoroughly unhappy. It meandered through the heads of the characters involved without direction. The descriptions were overblown and some of the dialog was down right syrupy. In the years since I wrote the original prologue, the characters have become clearer in my mind. I have even outlined a whole series of books with these characters. Two of them in particular aren't alive, during the main story line, so the prologue is the first of just a few places that the reader will be able to get their perspectives. The prologue should focus on them, and its original edition did not.

My years of writing training materials as a corporate trainer have conditioned me to write to an outline. It also got me used to working to a deadline, which I always managed to by keeping to an "always moving forward" way of working. If I get stuck on something, I move to something else until my mental block clears itself, or I find the information I need to finish. That's also why I always have multiple projects going. I'm always moving forward on one of them. So with that in mind, I was loath to spend valuable time going back and completely rewriting something that I had checked off my novel writing to do list. I told myself that I just had to get the rest out before I could go back and rewrite the prologue.

The trouble is, I floundered somewhere around chapter 9. As I was writing the rest of the story, the characters and events included in the prologue solidified in my mind more and more. I seemed to lose my way with the rest of the plot. I couldn't stop thinking about that prologue and how important is was to tell that story well before I could get the rest of it right. I finally had to bite the bullet and rewrite the darned thing. That's just what I've spent my few hours of true writing time for the last week or so doing, and I couldn't be more pleased.

What was unfocused and immature, is now true to the characters whose stories need to be told there. It has depth and subtext and foreshadowing that suggests where the overall series in addition to that novel will go. It doesn't reveal too much, but gives the right amount of characterization and a tantalizing glimpse of the heroine's back story. And best of all the writing doesn't make me want to hurl my iPad across the room as the original version did. It also has the added benefit of making me feel so much more focused about moving forward. I know some things in my outline need to be changed, what needs to be added and taken out. Rewriting took extra time that I could used to advance the plot, but it's also helped me refocus. Now, when I advance the plot I know I'll be moving in the right direction.