It’s all very well to start writing your first book at fourteen, until you come to edit it at eighteen. Fourteen year old me was far too edgy and emo to produce a decent book, with Fate consisting of 90,000 words of misery. Funnily enough, none of the publishers I tried last year wanted it. Therefore, with the exams over, I’ve finally managed to drag myself back to it with fresh eyes, ready to give it the shiny makeover that it deserves.
A rewrite isn’t the most fun thing in the world, let alone a rererererewrite, but with each added “re”, a few lessons are learned. Here’s everything I’ve learned through my amateur attempts to fix Fate:
1. Let it Be
I was obsessed with the idea of having written my first book by sixteen, certain that my young age would be the selling point that publishers needed to pick it up. Of course, it’s almost impossible to get good GCSE grades while writing a good debut novel, so this deadline kept getting pushed further and further back. Looking at it, so many of the bad elements that were left in were because of these deadlines that I kept setting myself. It’s okay to leave it for a bit – especially if you’re young. Plus, you’re bound to hate it if you turn it into a chore for yourself. Leave it alone for a while, and with any luck, you’ll be naturally drawn back to it.
2. Just get it over with
This may seem at odds with number 1, but it’s important to find a balance between the two. Once I realised the bazillion problems with it last November, I just wanted to bury my head in the sand – I’d all but marked it as done. I then spent a grand total of nine months (yes, nine! Fate turned four in that time!) avoiding it, despite having so many ideas of what needed to be done. And ok, sure, there was the issue of A-levels, and maybe that’s a good excuse, but as soon as I sat down to write I realised that it wasn’t so bad. It’s good to spend time away, but it’s not so good to blatantly procrastinate.
3. Don’t be afraid to make drastic changes
I’m about four drafts in, and in each of those drafts, I’ve noticed new, bigger, fundamental problems with the way the book works. I’ve then almost immediately convinced myself that it doesn’t matter. A word of advice: Just start writing as if they’re fixed. In my case, this meant going right back to the beginning and giving Fate a whole new voice. As soon as I did, though, it was like the “ahhh, that’s better” moment after you stop holding in a proverbial pee after four years. The bigger problems are the least fun to fix, but it’s worth it.
4. Keep EVERYTHING
This may seem obvious, but it’s something that I’ve forgotten too many times. Each time you make any sort of change (apart from maybe grammatical), make a copy of the document with a version number at the end. Even if you don’t regret any of your changes, it’s nice to have the nostalgia of looking back at how your book used to be.
5. Keep in mind that wisdom comes with age
This is probably more specific to younger writers who are now older and editing past writing. All the characters in Fate are eighteen, and so editing it now that I am that age is hilarious – fourteen year old me had no idea. I’ll probably look back when I’m older at the edits I made at eighteen and wonder how I was ever so naive. Just keep in mind to take everything that your younger self wrote with a pinch of salt – you may need to do a lot of fact-checking. Not that this will always be the case. Also be mindful of the sensitivity with which you approached issues – I was very good at adding serious themes, but not so good at handling them.
6. Don’t beat yourself up about everything that you fix
One of the things that I’ve struggled with most when it comes to editing is the fact that I’ve had it published online for several years. It’s really easy to look at a mistake and go “Oh my God, people have seen this??? With my name on it??? *curls up into a ball of shame*”, but don’t. That’s easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to have a mentality of growing and improving rather than scolding your past self. Editing is enough of a fight without you beating yourself up, too.
Good luck with your rewrite! Just think, when it’s over, you can do everything with the air of superiority of someone who has written a book. Again. And again. And again.