I wanted to do a post about revamping—not revising—but revamping. When I say revamping, I mean taking what you have written and doing a complete rewrite on the sucker. Of course I wouldn’t feel confident about talking about revamping had I not done it. Let me take you back about twelve years. I was 22 and I had just finished my first novel. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. This book was going to get me a contract with a publisher in New York and I would retire the following year and live out my days in my beach house. Yeah I was pretty naive about the publishing industry. And like most naive writers, I took that book sent it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the business. I didn’t research publishers I just sent it out to everyone. (Note: DO NOT DO THIS!) About a month later when the rejections started flooding in like a dam had just broke, I started to feel a little less confident about my writing. I remember one rejection letter I got from Harlequin. It read, “Nice story, but where’s all the sex?” I was mortified. This was a middle-grade book, and they wanted me to add sex? That just shows how stupid I was.
Let’s fast forward the story to about a year ago. I had just finished my second Dream Keeper book and was waiting to hear back from publishers. I didn’t want to write the third book because I didn’t want to have it just sit there if I never published the first. I decided to go through my massive “idea drawer” to find one of the gems I stashed away for a rainy day. I came across what was then entitled, The Highway to Glayden. My first book! After a year of rejections I finally gave up on writing for a time and it had sat in that file for eleven years. The only person who’d red it completely (I’m not sure many of the publishers did) was my wife, and she’d liked the story. I started reading and saw that it was horrible. Why I ever thought it would get me a huge book deal was beyond me. It jumped POV like every other page, it had words that weren’t words, and grammar errors up the wingwang. But it also had a good story. I could work with that.
So I read the book. As I read, I ignored all the garbage that made it back and focused on the story. I wrote an outline as I went, pin pointing the main plot twists and character arcs. Once I was done, I started over. I opened a fresh new document and began to start the book as if I hadn’t written it before. I wrote the book in a little under two months. Because I had written it before the story was in my head. I saw the details and I focused on those details. I changed things here and there, but in the end I had a book I was proud of. I had revamped it. Now I had a book worthy of publishing. I pitched it to agents and got some requests but no one offered to back it. Because I’m in the mind set of go big (go with one of the big 6 publishers) or go indie, I decided to go indie with it. I have it slotted for release in March this year, now under the title, The Stone of Valhalla. The story is somewhat the same. I changed it from a full blown MG fantasy to a MG urban fantasy. I added characters to help with the plot and I got rid of all the adjectives I overly used. What I kept was the skeleton of what made this story so good: the main character’s transformation from boy to man.
I wanted to share my experience with revamping a book because sometimes we write something and the book just isn’t ready. Maybe we need a little growing room; I took twelve years to grow. Maybe the book just isn’t right for the market, right now, doesn’t mean next year it won’t be. For whatever reason, sometimes a complete overhaul of the book is just what it needs to be ‘publish ready’. Here are some tips I’d like to give you if you have a book that’s in the need of a revamp:
- Give your books time to sit. Long enough that when you go back to read it the story is fresh.
- Read it and take notes as you read.
- Ignore what makes it bad and only focus on what makes it good.
- Create an outline of the plot.
- Think about what you could do to make the story better.
- Start fresh. Open a new document and start with page one.
- Only refer back to the original if you have a question about something.
- Be proud of the time you are taking to make it shine.
I watched a fascinating documentary about a swordsmith. It was interesting that if the swordsmith saw a flaw in the sword after it was pulled from the crucible, he would send it back to the melting pot and start over. If he let the flaw go unnoticed, the blade might shatter or break while in battle. It was better to start over than risk it breaking. He learned as he reheated the metal and worked at it over and over—the stronger the blade became. This is what we must do as writers. We must first inspect our book. If it has flaws, fix them. If the flaws are to the point that it just breaks the story, maybe it’s time to revamp and start over. In the end you’ll have a much cleaner, stronger, better book. It will take work, but it will be worth it. Happy writing!