In 2017, I decided that I was going to re-draft my first NaNoWriMo novel, Venture. It didn't go well...
It had been three years since I wrote Venture, and I thought that it was a story I will wanted to tell. Since finishing the draft, I knew that it was something I wanted to re-visit after separating myself from the story for a bit and growing as a writer. I knew there was a lot of work to do on the story, especially when it came to the plot. So, three years later, I decided it was time to tackle my first novel again.
Because it was summer, I had plenty of time to think about how I was going to re-work the plot. Already, I had some ideas of the changes I wanted. Getting them onto the page was another matter.
The advice is always to read through the first draft again to see what the story was like and what can be worked with for the next draft. I think I opened the document and read the first few paragraphs before stopping. It was so bad. I couldn't read any more for the fear that I would cringe myself to death. I ha this amazing opening line - or so I thought. It was something I was so proud of when I wrote it, but thinking back on it now, it was filled with so much teenage angst. Nothing screams inexperienced-angsty-teen-writer like the line "People destroy the things they don't understand."
Excuse me while I hide for awhile.
Putting aside my first chapter, I decided that I would just start re-writing the plot and the outline instead. There were things about the plot and the background of the book that had never been fully worked out when I first wrote the book, so I started there. To my credit, I did fix a bunch of issues that had been bothering me and was able to lay a more solid groundwork to start re-writing from. Then, I started re-writing the plot and re-outlining.
This is where I found myself going in circles. I thought I had let go of enough of the initial premise to start working on this again, but as I wrote, I realized that wasn't the case. There were so many things about the original story that I wasn't ready to let go of yet, and the more I tried to keep outlining, the more I was getting stuck. I did my best to deviate from what I had wanted for the story when I first wrote it, but I was beginning to realize that I was still too close to the story.
Several days of writing went into this before I decided to stop. I was still too close to the story, and when I was honest with myself, there wasn't much of a story left for me to tell. Part of that was because this book fell into the dystopian genre, which is now dead and gone in the YA world. The other part of it was simply that it wasn't a good story. I had to come to terms with that by trying to re-write it, trying to fix plot holes, and trying to figure out why I was getting stuck when I first wrote the book.
Even so, it was a really good experience for me to try re-writing my first book. A lot of authors have talked about what it was like for them to go back to their first book and how cringey it can be. I definitely experienced the cringe when I tried going through this. And though I may not have been able to re-write this into something worthy of querying and submission, I was happy that I had tried to make something more of my first novel.
Nothing will come of this novel in terms of its story, but there's a big chance that I'll steal elements of it for other stories. Maybe some character names or story pieces will find their way into other books, but there's very little chance that this book will see the light of day unless I decide to embarrass myself publicly by reading this chapter online.
I think my biggest lesson from trying to re-write Venture is that just because an idea was once good, doesn't mean it's going to stand the test of time. As my writing skills have grown over the past few years and I've discovered the genre I'm most comfortable writing in, I've realized how much things have changed for me since I wrote Venture. I've learned to focus on different things, I've learned that pacing is something I suck at and need to be conscious of, and I've learned the dystopia is a genre I should never touch again because I'm not that kind of writer.
I'm curious to see what I learn from the next re-write I try.