Rewrite Sticky Notes

So, I just discovered that it’s been an entire week since I posted anything. I knew it had been a while, but didn’t think it was that long. Life has gotten more tiring, with my new job and changes to my husband’s work schedule, but I’ll try to handle it a bit better. Starting with this brand new post!

I have a program on my computer I absolutely love. I discovered it back in high school, and I’ve made it a point to have on every computer since (I think it comes standard these days, anyway). It’s called Sticky Notes.

Sticky Notes is exactly what it sounds like. It’s like putting a post-it note right on your desktop. I used them in school to keep track of homework assignments and deadlines. I used them when I worked for an attorney to keep track of court dates. And now I’m using one to hold my rewrite ideas.

If you’ve never written anything of considerable length, you may not understand how much a story can evolve over time. Part of it is the story taking on a life of its own. Characters begin to make their own decisions, and the writer is powerless to stop them. But part of it is the experience of the writer. After putting down 100,000 words, your writing is bound to be better than it was when you began. It’s been commonly said that it takes writing and discarding a million words to reach competency (I don’t know who said it first, but if you’re interested you can read about it here).

That’s where rewrites come in. Editing, proofreading, whatever you want to call it, it all refers to the same process. I used to be really bad about editing chapters I’d already finished, so much so that my forward progress was hampered. This time around, I’m making a concerted effort to not go back and change anything. Forward progress is everything. But there are so many things I want to change.

Enter Sticky Notes. My story has already changed. When I decide I want to change something, I simply begin the next chapter as if that change has already been made. And I write a line in my Sticky Note about what the change is, so that when I eventually finish and begin my rewriting, I know what needs to be changed in the beginning chapters to match the rest of the book.

Here are some changes I’ve decided to make: First off, the feedback I got from my critique partner informed me that my protagonist (Callum) is not very likable. He’s naive, and stubborn, and makes stupid decisions. I want him naive, to a degree, but I was unable to see his flaws. When I rewrite, I want to make him stronger, smarter, so that readers will like him better. I also need to clarify his motivations. To be honest, when I began this story I wasn’t certain myself what his motivations were, so it makes sense that Callum doesn’t know what motivates him either.

Callum is also an orphan. I make mention of it, but I want to pull his dead parents more into the story. I think if I flesh out that situation, I can use it to fuel Callum’s motivations and make his decisions make more sense.

After doing some reading, I’ve also decided to cut out the first 700 words or so of chapter 1. When I began, I wanted to build the story slowly, but I think a faster pace at the beginning would catch the reader’s attention better, so I’m going to skip ahead to the first inciting incident. There’s some backstory in those first 700 words, but that’ll be easy enough to slip in somewhere else.

Lastly (not my last rewrite plan, just the last one I’m writing about here), I need to expand the rules for using magic. I initially wrote them to be very restrictive, and I thought that was a good thing. But as the chapters have gone by, it’s become harder for me to stick to those rules and have the story progress like I want it to. So, I need to broaden the rules and uses of magic. I’ve already incorporated this change, and I just need to alter my beginning chapters to reflect it and prevent continuity errors.

So, there’s a brief glimpse into what’s going on inside my head. This fantasy project is taking me longer to finish than I wanted it to, and I’m so ready to be done and starting rewrites that I spend a lot of time thinking about them. That time will come, though. For now, it’s back to chapter 17. Hopefully I’ll get it wrapped up in the next day or two and be on to chapter 18 before the year turns over.

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