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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

#IWSG - Rewriting An Old Manuscript

It's the 1st Wednesday. Happy  Insecure Writers Support Group Day. IWSG is the brainchild Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Thanks, Alex, for starting this group and keeping it going. And thanks to this month's awesome hosts:  Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

The question this month asks: have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it?

My first novel, Switched, a sci-fi romance, was published in 2001. As soon as it was accepted, I started on the sequel, Switched, Too. The fun part of Switched was the smart-talking heroine from Earth who was accidentally transported aboard an alien spaceship. The hero (human) from an alien planet, in contrast, was stiff, formal, composed. Think Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

In the second book, the hero (from Earth) was the smart aleck and the heroine super serious. My editor hated her. Thought she should be pushed out an airlock (into space). I rewrote that story so many times, trying to please the editor, that I rewrote the life out of it.

Skip ahead ten years. Life and family obligations brought my writing career into hiatus. When things settled down and I wanted to write again, self-publishing was heating up. Since I had the rights back to Switched, I self-published it then immediately started on the sequel. Again.

I knew there were good sections in Switched, Too. I also knew I had to rework many sections as well as work on the heroine, making her likeable. Actually, what I needed to do was find a good reason for her standoffishness and share that with the reader.

Taking a manuscript that was on at least five 3.5” floppy disks and working it into a cohesive story became a Herculean task. It had been written in the days of saving each chapter in a separate file. I’m pretty sure I wrote it in Works. Not Word, Works. I printed out each chapter, used a spreadsheet to identify each scene, its purpose, etc., then used colored markers to highlight what I wanted to keep and what to delete.

The next step involved cutting and pasting. We’ve gotten used to doing that electronically. I used scissors and Scotch tape. Now I didn’t want to retype a 100k manuscript, so I had to identify where each section came from. I also had to write transitions between scenes. Eventually, I had a rough manuscript. Revising, editing, revising more, editing again. Finally, I had the story the way I originally “saw” it. And I liked it. Off it went to a freelance editor who’d read Switched. Her suggestions made the story stronger, and at last it was ready for publication.

In the time it took to go from an old manuscript and put it into publishable form, I could have written two 100k books. When I started, I had no idea how much work it would be. Was it worth it? Yes. I’m glad I persisted. Writing the third book in the series was much easier. Would I do it again? I’m not sure. I’d really have to feel strongly about the story.

I read that Jennifer Crusie said it was easier to write a new story than to rewrite an old one. From my experience, I can say she’s right.

Be careful what you wish for...you might get it.

Down-sized astronaut candidate Scott Cherella leaps at the chance to go into space. He just has to pretend to be the captain of an Alliance of Planets starship. His lifelong dream quickly becomes a nightmare when sabotage erupts. To save the ship and crew he has to depend on an uptight, disapproving colleague.

The only time Veronese Qilana broke the rules tragedy resulted. She vowed never again. Now, to protect the real starship captain, she'll have to deceive the crew by helping the imposter. They must work together to uncover the saboteur and get the crew safely home. In doing so, they discover opposites really do attract.

Click here to find others on the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop. Or go to IWSG on Facebook to see who’s blogging today. 

I'll be late responding and visiting because I'll be traveling this week.


  1. Wow, what a process that was to rework a manuscript on floppy disks using scissors and tape :-) Sometimes, I forget how far we've come with technology in such a relatively short period of time.

  2. You have definitely come a long way as to where technological tools are concerned. I remember the 5 1/4 floppy disks.
    Wishing you all the best as you continue to write your way in the world.
    Shalom aleichem,

    1. I remember those 5 1/4 floppies, which were really floppy. LOL

  3. So glad you stuck with it! I remember those days of frustration well. At least you could get your material off the disks. Some of mine were on Framework which had a life expectancy of I think 4 months before becoming obsolete and unopenable.

    1. Frustration is right. Never heard of Framework. I hope you didn't have to retype all those stories. Yikes!

  4. Wow! Your determination to see it through is impressive. And I thought typing up a handwritten manuscript was a chore ;-) Good for you!
    Years ago, I lost an over-stuffed 3-ring binder - containing every poem I'd ever written - in a fire. It took several years for the inspiration for poems to return, but in the interim I began to write novels and short stories.

    1. How awful to lose so much of your work. I can't imagine trying to recreate those poems or to find the inspiration to write more. It's great that you're able to write what you do.


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