It's been a couple years since I finished my first draft of The Trials of Blood. The first draft itself was an accomplishment for me: my first "real" manuscript. My first story of any kind that crested that 110,000 word mark. It felt amazing. I felt like an author. I was an author at that point. Turns out that year-and-a-half I spent piecing that draft together was the easy part. Now comes the revision stages. In this case, my tactic (and trust me, I've thought about this a lot and tried a lot of methods already) is to work on a new outline and start writing it again. I'm currently speed-reading through The Trials of Blood using Spreeder (free online), making a new outline with notes, and I've started another notebook full of things I'd like to "keep" from the first draft.
I'll be perfectly honest: I was ready to throw the entire story away. All of it. I was ready to say "Fuck it," and go back to the drawing board. Now, I understand why (I didn't for a long time), and I'm working through it. I was afraid, I was running from my manuscript (a metaphor for my life, perhaps), too afraid to stop and try and fix the issues, I'd rather have run away and start anew. And I tried, oh, I tried. I considered writing it all over, I considered transporting all of my beloved characters and story ideas to the future (it's true), I thought about making The Burning City the first book, or making Nox the main character. I've done a lot of consideration lately. You'll be glad to know that I've decided on something far less extreme.
But before I tell you what I decided to do, let me show you what almost happened: The Outline that Nearly Was.
After deliberating on the idea for a long while, music finally changed my mind. I've always had a dream to be a Mercedes Lackey. Yes, she's a verb. An action word for "A wonderful Fantasy author of humorous, light-hearted Fantasy books (and many other kinds), who also writes music (and a hundred other things)." She's my favorite author, hands-down. And in the back of some of her books, she has written lyrics. And music, and produced CDs and audio files and she's always inspired me. Now I am no musician, but it's on my list of things to accomplish someday--and I want to include songs in my books as well.
And, quite frankly, I didn't want to be writing Pop Music or Indie Rock for modern settings. No, I'm interested in the folky, medieval style music of drums and guitars--so music was what eventually changed my mind and put me back on the path to the Fantasy setting.
What About This New Outline...
Right. Well, I don't have much to show for it, but I've started in the middle where some of the scenes I'm keeping are still the strongest. And I'm making changes and working out from there. It seems simple enough. (It's not!) But I had to start somewhere, so I decided to start in the middle since I despise the beginning and the ending is obsolete because I'm also changing the antagonistic force, thus changing the ending.
What Kind Of Changes?
The good kind.
I started asking myself "What don't I like about the story?" Eventually I stopped answering "Everything, throw it all away!" I thought, no, it's not awful, it's not perfect but I can fix it. I started to narrow down what, exactly, I didn't like about it. It's still a first/second-ish draft, there's problems, but what was wrong with the heart of the story..? I decided that I didn't like the antagonists, Tas'kara and Ubel or their motivations. So I cut them out.
There's a gaping hole where their watery characters used to be that I'll be working to fix. I asked myself "What if?" What if Allyn didn't die (yet)? What if Allyn was kidnapped instead of Taelor? What if his wooden carving didn't get lost in the mud and taken by a [now obsolete] antagonist? What if it was mashed together with another scene, and Allyn replaced the character Taelor? What if I could get Nox and Malisyn, plausibly, alone on the Glass Plains? Of course there was: all I had to do was write it.
So now I'm considering doing a Camp NaNo in July and working off an outline I haven't finished yet--excitement!