Help! How Do You Restart Your Story After a Critique?

This may sound crazy but have you ever gotten to a point where you know you need to re-start your story and you don’t know where or how to re-start it?

Let me explain (no, let me sum up):  A Fast Draft of 50,000 words, a critique in which the first chapter needs revamped, and the revamping will effect the rest of the 50,000 words to a big extent.  Frustrating, yes–but needing to be done.  Or maybe I’m looking at it all wrong.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has come across this situation whether by critique partners/editors or even your own gut instinct.  I’ve done this a time or two also but always ended up agonizing over it (like when I used to agonize over Algebra problems in high school–no, I’m not a Math person).  I would over think the problem until my brain wanted to explode.  Now I’m beginning to feel that way with this situation.

As excited as I am to work out this major kink to my story, I’m afraid of starting from scratch–and do I need to?

Who’s with me so far, or have I lost you on this?

I know critiques are subjective but I also know when a majority of the critiques come back with the same issue, something needs to be done.  The story premise is good, characters, etc.  but the general approach  is wrong.  (It’s always something.)  🙂

For those who are in the same boat what are your past experiences?  How do you put things in perspective and pour over the ideas?  Do you start from scratch by making a separate file? Do you copy and paste old parts to fit in with new? Do you drink a lot of coffee and rant at your Muse? Am I turning this into a dreaded Algebra problem and over thinking the issue?

I would love to hear inspirational ideas–no matter how crazy.  What do you do to start over?


17 thoughts on “Help! How Do You Restart Your Story After a Critique?

  1. Inigo Montoya! Oh, Loni, you were very missed at retreat.

    I once tried to completely rewrite a story from scratch as an exercise…it was a complete disaster. Instead of fixing the big problems I only layered MORE problems onto it. I didn’t just polish the turd, I decorated it with icing and sprinkles.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t try the same method again someday. It just means that revising is a BITCH. Good luck!!!

    1. Hey Sis,
      I wondered if anyone would catch that ;). I love Inigo Montoya! I’m in that kind of mood, want to watch Princess Bride now. I have got to get together with you all! Soon!

      Revising is a BITCH. And I know about those turd cupcakes–this one feels like it but I keep going back to see if I can cover up the stench. (I needed that laugh this morning–thank you!) To me it’s like covering up a stinky with air freshener (it still smells like crap but now has floral undertones). LOL. 😀

      I’m going to settle in here this afternoon and see if I can salvage it. Not sure if I want to start from scratch as it becomes so redundant. I guess just diving in is the best thing to do.

  2. Loni,
    My heart goes out to you because I know this situation too well! Every time I get ready to revise I instead decide to write another book. Now I have four books to revise… I wish I could give you some great advice, and I wish I could take it too. 🙂
    What I always hear is that I’m starting in the wrong place. My wish is fort characters to finally all be in the right places at the right times. Wouldn’t that be swell?!
    Good luck!

  3. I meant to say for my characters…
    On a bus with sixth graders… Sorry. It’s a bumpy, loud experience.

    1. Kim,
      Hope you are having a great time with those kids–been there, done that, got the t-shirt and memories to prove it. 🙂 I understood perfectly by context. LOL

      That is my problem lately, starting in the wrong place. I have a whole first chapter in which I need to cut the first 1/3 of chapter, start last half of chapter and sprinklin in parts and pieces of middle part. If that makes sense to you–I Love You– because I’m not sure it does, but that’s how I’m interrepting it. 🙂

      I too usually end up putting it to the side and starting another. I have three WIP’s now and take turns being frustrated with each one. I was hoping to have this one finished by end of April but looks more like May now. Thanks for the wishes.

  4. Hi Loni! Hugs!!! And lots of chocolate.

    I feel your pain after just finishing my first bootcamp. 30,000 words and I also went astray at the very beginning. What I’m going to do is keep this first draft and rename it “Pearls” because there is some really great stuff in there I want to cut and paste into the new draft.
    I hope P.H. sees this and comments. If not, ask her about her “Zero Draft”.
    Good luck and more hugs 🙂

    1. Carlene,
      Chocolate! Oh yeaaahhhh! B)

      I have so many files from previous works that I keep cutting and pasting too. I keep every draft–until I have them all labeled in numerical/date order so I can figure out which one is which. I never delete anything that may be of use. I had done a contest in which a part of the story finaled in the contest–still use it in new drafts because it was a winning scene.

      I’ll have to ask P.H. about the “Zero Draft”, if I don’t hear from her first–(clears throat) *ahem* ‘yes we’re talking about you, P.H. get your fins over here’. LOL

      Congrats on the Bootcamp. 30,000 is nothing to sneeze at!! Way to go!! 😀

      Hugs back at ya!

  5. I guess what Carlene wants me to say is that I always do this. The first step for me in every story is to write a zero draft — a quick and dirty fast, fast draft in which I have every intention of tossing the entire thing, but that I need to write in order to figure out my stories and understand my characters. I’m essence, this is my brainstorming draft, and I feel no pain in throwing it out because the writing is crap, anyway. BUT! I can understand the pain of abandoning something that you have spent much more time on. I’ve done this, too — rewritten over half of a novel I thought was finished after receiving an eye-opening critique — and it’s awful and painful and excruciating. But I learned a lot. I guess all I can say is make sure you keep the original version somewhere and GOOD LUCK!!! Be sure to lean on your mermaid sisters for support and encouragement. We are always here for you!

    1. P.H.
      Thanks for the quick response ;). Love ya, sis!

      I like your idea of the zero draft. I’ve heard it’s okay to write crap–they told us this in Fast Draft and I guess it’s kind of the same issue–just write to see where your story/characters are going. The critiques were good and very much needed as I know they really get to the heart of what we as the writer don’t see so knowing my crit partners the way I do, I trust them to tell me what I need to know.
      Thanks for the support and encouragement. Always good to know I have my sis’ out there! 😉

  6. Fantabulous post, Loni-Mermaid! Seriously, just what I needed to read.

    This past January, I sat in a restaurant with my two critique partners as we realized I needed a better conflict. I felt so depressed and deflated realizing that I was going to have to change a significant part of my book. Not to mention that I’m writing a series and certain changes affect three other books. At they aren’t written yet.

    My first chapter has been bugging me since day one and I’m about to revise it – yet again. It’s scary and daunting. But I always keep all of my drafts, just in case. I like to take one chapter at a time, paste it into a different document and start working on it. But I could definitely use some help too so I will be lurking around in the comments here today.

    Good luck and don’t give up!!!! Big smoochies to you! 😉

    1. God do I know about that, Kerri! I swear we were sharing writing vibes back in January! That’s when this whole thing started originally!

      Mine has been a book I originally wrote, finished and added two more books to also over the past four years. But when I kept getting rejections/no results from contests (except for a small scene entered) and various odd critiques on it, I had put it and the others to the side.

      Now, I’m having to re-write the whole series outline, work one book at a time to see if one will sell (if one won’t–the others won’t matter). I’ve written other things, finished, pitched, etc. but I keep coming back to this book/series. It’s frustrating.

      I’m right there with you on page one again. But I think I have an idea of what I need to do for it but maybe I’m terrified of ‘it’ not being right either. 🙁 I’m not giving up though–I like to torture myself 🙂 . Maybe it’s that writer/artist conflict in which we torture ourselves to perfection. LOL

      I’m going to try P.H.’s suggestion about the ‘zero draft’. I’ve basically done it but now comes the piecing the parts together. I’ve done the one chapter at a time and may have to work from that angle in my revise. So thanks for the tip.

      MWWWAAAHHH/*Smoochies* back at you! 🙂

  7. Thanks Sis!
    This is good info to know. I like the idea of throwing out the first chapter. (Come to think of it, I did that with the book I finished last year after a critique. But I managed to move on with it. Hmmm.)

    This one maybe the whole ‘threading problems throughout the story’ so I will have to fix it, but I may be able to salvage the rest. (I’m beginning to feel a bit more confident now 🙂 ). This idea of re-working the problem areas to fit might just be do-able. I hate the thought of starting over.

    No, I never throw out anything and keep them in a file as I label them according to date–good idea. Still, with so many revisions, it’s amazing how nothing is ever quite the same as the first draft. The bones may be there but the internal workings are like puzzle pieces needing to be resized to fit. I guess revamping is a definite, necessary evil.

    Thanks for the hugs and encouragement and sharing your trials with me! 🙂

  8. Oh, evil edits! They’re part of the process but they’re so difficult. Especially when you decide to make a big change. I like to use track changes when I’m doing my bigger edits, and have heard amazing things about Scrivener (where’s Gwen Hernandez?!) But truly, time is the best barometer for me in deciding this kind of thing. If you’re able to put your project aside in favor of something else for a few weeks, sometimes the fresh eyes make all the difference in realizing what must happen to your MS to make it richer and more layered when you go back.

    I’m an edit-as-I-go girl (and I do mean heavy edits during the drating phase). At first, I tried to break myself of this “habit”, but then nothing worked and I only got more frustrated. So allowing yourself to write the way you feel most comfortable is also important, I think. And if that means puzzle-piecing your ideas around, then go for it! Editing may present daunting work, but look at it this way. You’re creating a masterpiece! The process is gonna be a little crazy, a little sloppy, and a little nuts.

    Can’t wait to hear how the results turn out though!

  9. Hey Loni! We missed you at retreat! I deal with this all the time and I don’t have any magical suggestions aside from dig deep, write, rewrite and edit. I find that most first chapters have too much back story in them. If there is a way to start the story later and then go back and sprinkle in the back story through other means–do it. As far as conflict, I look at my particular character, ask myself what would be the worst thing that could happen to that person, or how I can make the situation even worse for them then I do that. You know, if your hero is terrified of heights then in order to save the day he might have to crawl out on a ledge 20 stories up and to punch up the drama the heroine might be hanging by her fingernails ready to fall and he needs to save her. Oh, and for good measure, the villain is still in the building and bursts in with a knife drawn while the hero is struggling to save her. Best of luck Loni!

  10. Oh my god, I would love to take a master class with Richard Peck. I love that crotchety old bugger to pieces.

  11. Diana, you caught my thoughts exactly, I was going to reference Richard Peck as well! I heard him speak at a librarian’s meeting and he told me exactly the same. It’s such helpful advice, and I try hard not to be afraid to move a scene or even a chapter to a “holding cell.”

    Hubby also insists on “save as” to create independent files for rewrites. Really cuts down on frustration when you’re positive you had THIS ONE ELEMENT in your draft and realize (tears and lamentation) you edited it out.

  12. I am a scorched earth kind of girl – and I don’t recommend this for everyone. I delete stuff. I had to rewrite a chapter and a half for my edits and I just deleted all the stuff I needed to change. hardcore.

    But, it was better. At least I think so!

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