The best it can be?

I am thinking about re-writing my book.

Why on earth am I thinking of something so drastic? I don’t want to do it, but aren’t we told to make our work the best it can be?

For a long time I have been worrying about the start. I have written before on whether to have a prologue or not, and if so what it should be. I eventually decided to ditch the prologue and as I had received favourable remarks about the start, it remained. Not untouched, it had gone through my editing with slight changes, but essentially it remained the same piece of writing that came from an exercise in class nearly four years ago. This is a long time ago and I think (hope) that my writing has improved since then.

When submitting to agents, publishers etc. You have to send the first chapter/1000 words/3000 words etc plus synopsis. I had thought the first chapter was OK, but had the feeling it wasn’t as good as “that scene later on, when…”

The book is written in the third person from the protagonist’s (Byrhtnoth) point of view, except for occasions when he is not around.

Recently I was lying in bed, worrying about that first chapter and thought “Why not try it in the first person?”. In the next writing class we were talking about opposites and the homework was to write a scene about two characters showing the differences between them. The two ideas clashed and fused. I rewrote the first scene in the book in the first person, but it wasn’t from Byrhtnoth’s POV, it was Wulfstan’s, his friend. The scene is the first time they meet. I had used Wulfstan in the prologues, looking back and saying he was going to write the story of Byrhtnoth – now he was telling it!

It was easy to write and I enjoyed it. I don’t like to brag, but it was good. I could carry on and write the whole of the first chapter in his voice. The second chapter would have to be completely rewritten, difficult but possible. But what happens then?

The plot divides, Byrhtnoth and Wulfstan part, taking different paths. They meet later and separate again. In fact for a lot of the book, Byrhtnoth is on his own. You might say, why not make Byrhtnoth the narrator? It wouldn’t work, I don’t know why, but Byrhtnoth doesn’t look back – he acts. Wulfstan remembers and writes it down.

What do I do?

I could use my new piece (500 words) which take place outside a door and continue with the original chapter in  third person – through the door.
Write the whole first chapter (3k+ words – it has been three shorter chapters!) in first person. The main characters are aged 7.
The second chapter is five years later, more action and Byrhtnoth soon leaves. It really needs to be third person. Should I add a first person intro? But then would have to continue throughout the book. Would it interrupt the action?

We were talking about NaNoWriMo at class last week, I said I might use it to re-write the book from scratch in first person. I don’t know if I could do it. It would be a completely different book, perhaps better, perhaps a waste of time.

Perhaps I should just wait for some feedback from my Beta Readers!

I think writing this post is helping me to clarify things, although I would welcome comments.

3 thoughts on “The best it can be?

  1. Right, first things first. What are your writing ambitions? Is this your one and only book or have you, as so often happens, ‘got the bug’ and plan to write many, many more books?
    This is important to think about. If you plan on only writing one book then you need to be happy that it’s the best you can make it. If, however, this is the first of many, then you can take the lessons you’ve learnt writing this book and use them in future projects.
    My first book (Purple) isn’t my best piece of writing (even though I love it, spent years writing it and crafting it, and thought it would be). No, my best book (and I say this without being full of myself) is Maserfeld – about book 18 in the long run of books I’ve written. Even I know it’s better than those that have come before, and some that have come after. For some reason, everything just ‘worked’ on that story and yet I don’t think I managed to recreate the same experience in the follow-up to it because the ‘facts’ of Winwaed just didn’t lend themselves to the same sort of novel.
    I’ve learnt the hard way that sometimes it’s best to forget about a project for a bit – put it to one side and then reread it and see what you think. With a llittle bit of distance from a project, it’s able to think more clearly. If you plan on writing a sequel, then go ahead and start, but leave your current finished project alone. See if the characters develop in book 2 (if it’s the same characters) or see how your writing improves with book 2. Or if you don’t want to write, then try reading something very different. I write historical fiction, but read fantasy the majority of the time.
    It’s good to get feedback from beta readers, but remember than everyone who reads it will suggest something different. This can be confusing. My beta reader and I had a big argument about one of my scenes in Maserfeld, but I didn’t want to change it because it would have made the story too predictable and when ‘retelling’ the past I like a few curve balls.
    As to prologues, I’ve met two literary agents in my time, and one told me to write a prologue and one told me they hated them. It’s a very personal choice. If it helps your story then keep it. If it doesn’t help then perhaps you could weave it into the story later on. The original beginning of Purple ended up halfway through the sequel (Blue). Remember, it’s your story. Hold true to what you planned to accomplish.
    However, if you’re NanoWriMoing this month (and I am) then you could take the opportunity to offer a different portrayal of your character. But, be confident that you can do it or you might grow frustrated with your character and lose your passion for him, and it’ll be hard to get it back.
    Sorry, that’s a very long reply! At heart, try and remember why you wanted to write and if you can be confident that you’ve done the best you can, and that the story develops as you want it to, then put it to one side, move on and go back to the beast in a few months.


    • Thank you for your comment, I will be posting shortly about what I decided.
      Your question about why I write made me think. When I started to write – not that long ago – it was just an experiment. Could I do it? I started to write a book, because in the class I attended, that was encouraged.
      I thought the book was finished, went on an Arvon course and was told it wasn’t. I think that was the point at which I could have given up. I didn’t, I’m stubborn like that!
      As I finished the book I discovered that the story didn’t end there. I have already started book two and have plans for a third. Any more? I’ll have to see what happens.
      So, to answer your question, I must have “got the bug” and I think it might be incurable!


  2. Pingback: I’m back! | Byrhtnoth

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