At this point in your story, the stakes are rising. The story may be turning in a new direction and the challenge in the rewrite is to allow this to happen. You may not have seen the most dynamic possibilities in your first draft, and now, as you glimpse new possibilities for the characters, you may fear that tackling them will collapse your story. This is likely not the case — however, if you’re not willing to allow your idea of the story to collapse, you may not fully investigate these new possibilities.
Some questions to consider as you move into the second half of Act Two:
- Are you noticing how your heroine’s want never changes, while her approach to getting what she wants is constantly changing as the result of her worthy antagonists?
- Are the stakes rising through complication between your heroine and her antagonists?
- How has your heroine’s moment of temptation led her to a deeper commitment?
- What is specifically at risk as a result of this deeper commitment?
- Have any possible ties been cut off from your heroine’s past?
There is a madness to this process of allowing your subconscious to make connections you might not understand. As you comb through the quick and dirty work of your first draft, you’re emerging from a dream state, and stepping back in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of all those thousands of words.
Problems may present themselves. You have to be careful that you don’t create new problems in your zeal. Solutions are rarely linear, and yet, when you arrive at one, it is often quite simple, even obvious, in retrospect.
Have you ever tried to remember someone’s name, wracking your brain for days, and then, suddenly, while taking a shower, the name pops into your head? Or, while driving, it hits you why your last relationship capsized? Suddenly, everything makes sense, and you’re left wondering where the insight came from.
Driving, swimming, hiking, rollerblading, doing a puzzle — these are all right-brain activities, solitary endeavors that don’t require great mental effort. When you relax your focus on the problem, new insights tend to emerge.
Rewriting doesn’t all happen at the computer. You are a channel for your story. Though you can’t force inspiration, you can create situations where it likes to hang out. Sometimes in the process of putting your work aside and taking a stroll, inspiration arrives.
Right-brain activities are invaluable to the process. Many story problems can be solved on your daily walk.
We all have our own story, the one about how we missed the boat, pulled the short straw, the one where we were wronged. Some of us have perfected it over the years, made it bulletproof, unassailable. It’s a pretty good story. Hell, sometimes it’s even true! #alternativefacts
However, as a storyteller, you must remember that every story has an ending.
An ending is simply the natural resolution of a theme. In your personal life, you may go round and round with your own story as it continues to unfold, but in fiction, revisiting the same beat gets old real quick. Readers are interested in what your jut-jawed hero comes to understand as the result of his journey.
Your story accumulates meaning as it progresses.
In the rewrite you begin to see why you wrote what you wrote. At times, there’s a tendency to soften the drama. Sometimes, as you gain clarity on your hero transformed, you begin to squirm at his weaknesses and less attractive qualities, and this can feel embarrassing. You may feel exposed. It’s difficult to separate yourself from your work, even when it’s not directly inspired by your own life (and more so when it is). You might feel a flicker of disgust when you recognize yourself in your hero and pull back from the conflict when it feels too revealing.
This is a disservice to your story, and it may sound the death knell to all of the great work you did in your first draft. You don’t want to neuter your protagonist for some idea of a better man. You love your hero, not because he is good but because he yearns for something more, and unless you show his weaknesses, there won’t be any context for his shift in perception at the end.
I’ve noticed in my own rewrite process that when the work begins to get really specific, I start to squirm as I glimpse my own limitations. This is where I can either withdraw, or become curious about my limitations and notice where they live in my characters.
Sometimes it’s helpful to develop a relationship to your own embarrassment. It’s natural, the moment we feel ashamed, to shut down. As writers, we can’t afford to do this. If you develop an objective detachment to your work, you’ll be better equipped to explore your characters.
You’re attempting to expose the world, sacred and profane. You may have an idea what this entails, but your story asks everything of you for a reason. If it didn’t, you’d never surrender. As you shed your old idea of your story, a wider perspective emerges that resolves your hero’s old belief.
For an example from my own work where I struggled through this part of the rewrite, check out The Romance of Eowain: Chapter 11, sc 29-30.
The Wedding of Eithne
Goodreads Ask the Author Event!
On 11 March, 2017, we’ll be hosting a Q&A on Goodreads with author Michael E. Dellert!
Michael’s well-versed in both the indie and traditional publishing worlds and has been building a devoted, multi-platform audience that’s passionate about the genre.
As a traditional publishing veteran-turned-indie fiction writer, he’s created a Medieval Celtic Fantasy series, the Matter of Manred Saga, that to date includes three works: Hedge King in Winter, A Merchant’s Tale, and the full-length novel The Romance of Eowain.
These heroic action-adventures are a deeply imagined fantasy milieu like few others. Become engrossed in this medieval dystopia of feuding savage tribes, petty hedge-kings, and the merchants and brigands that fight to make a living among them, even as dark forces awaken in world drenched in sword-and-sorcery adventure.
Watch the book trailers for all three works here to get a peek into this fascinating world: