Often I meet writers who have put aside their manuscripts because reworking seems too big a task. They cite various reasons – just don't have the time, I don't know how to begin, it's just too huge a task to tackle… Well, it is a huge task no doubt but I personally believe it's a crime to put a WiP (work in progress) on hold and shy away from the herculean task that stares at you.
Maybe I'm a weirdo who just loves a challenge. I love to hang a target on my pin up board. I just have to get there else I cant eat, sleep or breathe. And I have done it twice. For both my debut and second novel. For the former I deleted 40K words after a friend's feedback and for the novel 2 I trashed the entire 80K words novel when I felt that the story could be written much better, albeit in a different manner. I kept pushing away the voice in my head that was asking me to do it till the murmur became a scream. Shut up and write the story differently. At that point I couldn't sush it anymore so I dived right in.
Well, this post isn't me gloating about myself ...err… well, maybe a little. I do feel very puffed and super happy that I did it. So allow me to gloat just lil bit more. Not only did I start from scratch after having finished the earlier version of the novel. I rewrote 80K words in four and half months. Yippee!! That's me doing the happy jiggly dance.
Ok so gloating time over. This post is me telling you how I did it and hoping some of my friends, very talented, gifted writers who have abandoned their WiP get inspired and finish their WiP. It is a crime to leave a story unfinished.
Take small baby steps.
Don't think of it as a project in totality. Tell yourself I will look at chapter one or maybe 5000 words and see how to better it or do it differently. It's difficult to make a beginning. So copy post chapter one or the first 5000 words in a fresh new word document and start with that. Spend one hour a day in the beginning. Keep telling yourself I'm just going to do it for one hour and see how it goes. Gradually increase the time after a week or when the first 5000 words are tackled. Then move to the next. The thing is not to look at the entire body of the MS, see the full word count and get intimidated. The little count ticker on the left hand bottom of the page can be scary. So start with a small less intimidating number and keep adding to it.
Use mind mapping technique
Or write chapter outlines. The first draft is done. The story is out of your head; now what remains is to trim the fat, rewrite and basically improve what is already there. I chose mind mapping because that helped me to focus what I intended to write in every chapter. Whatever you choose; mind mapping or chapter outline, this will force you to think how you want the story to proceed. Again, don't do this for the entire novel in the beginning. Work on maybe 5 chapters or whatever you are comfortable with. The key here is not to stress you out and lull yourself into the gigantic task slowly and gradually till you are so hooked that you can't and don't want to withdraw.
In my case mind mapping really helped. I did it for 7 chapters to kick off and then started writing. I wrote for 6-7 hours a day, all days of the week.
Don't edit as you write
When you reworking the first draft, please remember there will be another go-through to run a fine comb through the MS. It will need a final edit. So while reworking don't stop to edit. Proceed with the changes and alterations that you have in your head. Keep a notebook or diary or maybe a word document for that. A place where you jot down your thoughts. Don't stop to go back in the story while you are writing or rewriting it. Don't put speed bumps in the road where walking is already tough for you. Walk on. You can tackle the things later and to ensure that you don't forget, that's where jotting it down comes in handy.
Sticky notes all around.
I stuck sticky notes all around my work place; on the pin up board, on the glass sliding doors, on my desk. You need to remind yourself to stay on course, to not give up. And please don't forget to pat yourself on the back and celebrate when you reach milestones. It's a long haul journey and you need to pause, feel good and then resume again. I can never shut myself from my friends and just write. I'm very social and love being with my friends and family. So do go out, enjoy but stick to the writing schedule. Keep reminding yourself, you gotta do this.
There is no magic formula here. I wish there was a magic wand that would miraculously fix everything but then where's the fun in that. It's only after you have slogged, wept and bled on the pages that you can air punch and scream, "Yeah! I did it!!" Believe me when I tell you, that feeling, that sense of achievement you feel when you have finally done what you were terrified of, what you put aside; it's really a top of the world kinda feeling.
There's no greater joy than doing something difficult, something you felt you can't do. So go ahead and do it. If I could do it, so can you.