Writing is Rewriting

Things to consider when writing a novel.


1/29/20244 min read

a white box with writing on it next to a plant
a white box with writing on it next to a plant

Writing is rewriting. I remember hearing my advisor say that with a great amount of stress when she was writing her academic book. I was puzzled at the time and didn't really process that statement. Now that I write plays and I'm attempting a novel, I fully understand that statement. Back then, I figured you write a story, novel, play and then you set it aside, return and edit. I didn't know you might edit ten times, maybe twelve, thirteen or more before you send it to a professional editor. Let alone push it out to find a prospective agent or publisher. I was naive to say the least when I wrote my first novel. I wrote it, off-hand, just wrote it all down.

Then I conducted research to find out how to get published. What a rat race! I went to a writer's convention and took a workshop on writing a novel. It was illuminating. She talked about having an outline and a story grid. It was very complicated. She covered how to put chapter ideas on notes and tack them to a board so you can rearrange them. I hadn't done any of that. She talked about the obligatory sex scene. I didn't have one of those, that's for sure. I didn't want to write a romance novel; I hate reading those. I wanted to write women's literature.

I also learned all about the different genres there are. There are even more now! That was over a decade ago. (Can you believe we can reference decades in our lives now?) Genres. Don't get me started. Then there's the audience to consider. Who do you think is going to read your book? Gee whiz, I don't know... anyone?

I've written lots of plays and stories over the years. I've set them aside and returned to them to flesh them out more or edit them. I've never rewritten anything over and over for over ten tries. I'm relieved to know that it's normal to rewrite many times. I'm always riddled with thoughts that I'm not approaching writing the 'right' way. Even though I know intellectually that there's no 'right or wrong' way, emotionally I still doubt myself. I am currently returning to a novel I wrote years and years ago (over a decade, shhh). It's a memoir except that I want to write it as a novel because I am taking liberties. It's about a short time in my life, my first marriage. There are lots of different approaches I could take. I started out with the idea of three women and their journey through supporting their husbands through graduate school, specifically seminary. I think I got that idea from a novel that I read that was about a handful of women and their friendship over the years. Plus, there were two women, who like me, were supporting their husbands through seminary. We became fast friends, and I was shocked when they discarded our friendship in the end. That was a bitter lesson.

I'm abandoning that approach now and I want to write it as a novel styled like a memoir. This is about the fourth or fifth rewrite. As I said I originally wrote it years ago. I've since gone to writing conventions, workshops, and graduate school. I've written non-fiction articles, academic articles, plays and poetry. Now I'm revisiting this novel. I've googled quite a bit on memoirs, novels, publishing, agents and whatnot. There's a lot of information out there about getting published, structure, writing dialogue and just about anything you have a question on. There are a lot of templates to use to help you structure and write the novel, as well as software developed specifically for that purpose. I like Novel Factory. It comes with a couple of templates, and you can enter other templates you find as well. The basic template is the hero's journey, in a 3-act style with a beginning, middle and end. Basic.

I've inserted a template for the 30-chapter book. I've gone through what I've written and set aside the chapters that were about the other two women. Now I'm pondering whether or not to write from two point of views (POV), the protagonist and the antagonist, re: me and my ex. You can guess who's who! That might be exciting. I'm reading murder mysteries these days and some of these authors include the murderer's POV. Of course, I'm not writing a murder mystery so there's that.

I think the theme is domestic abuse, not physical violence but gaslighting and mental anguish. I want to share with others how we can easily get caught up in the lies a charming person generates. It's hard to recognize gaslighting when you're in it. We get trained to believe in romance, rescue (knight in shining armor), and caring for others. I was also snowed by my religious beliefs. I think a person can be ensnared by a false reading on that level as well. Life is complicated, we'll see if I can tell this particular story or not.

Then there will be the whole traditional publishing or self-publishing question to answer. That's for another day. Right now, I need to rewrite this novel several more times.