Rewriting: an exercise in doing things anew


The great thing about being between semesters, is that, with the exception of summer school, and obviously work, you have a lot more time to write.

And as I mentioned in my last blog post, I managed to write a seven-thousand word story in a week and submit it to Writers Of The Future at the end of last quarter.

Having done that though, I had my final summer school assignment due mid-January. It was a freeform group assignment for “Science and the Cinema”, an awesome class in which we compared science fiction films with real hard science. (I highly recommend it)

Now, having just written that short story, the thought occurred to me, well, couldn’t I just submit that as my assignment? After all, the science in my post-apocalyptic YA urban fantasy was all based on things I’d learned in class.

So I contacted my professor (while he was on vacation in Fiji) and he said yes! But I had to cut it down to three-thousand words, and make sure the science was both accurate and central to the plot. And ideally do it with my assigned group, not a solo project.

So like any good uncompromising writer, I enlisted the help of my two “research assistants” and formed a new story from my old story’s ashes. Not a remodelling. More a second, newer building, paying homage to an older one.

To be honest, the fact that the first story was only two weeks older than the second did my head in a little bit. It was like buying a new shirt, trying it on once or twice and then, before breaking it in or even really getting used to it, buying another of the same shirt, just two sizes smaller and in black instead of grey.

A little unsettling it might have been, but I think the exercise as a whole really expanded my abilities as a writer.

I’d written a story I was happy with and excited about. There was no need for me to change it. Except perhaps to flesh it out into a longer story. Make it into a novel.

So the very act of changing the audience, genre and more than halving the word-count, was, to say the least, a challenge. But I did it. And what’s more, I did it well. It expanded my whole view of what the story could be. It no longer had to be a YA dystopian future. It could be epic SF. Or maybe even some melding of the two. An ensemble cast of different characters all dealing with this world in wholly different, yet tangibly related ways.

The point is, a whole new world of possibility has been opened to me. And uncannily so, it runs along completely with the Writing Excuses theme for this year and that is genre-melding or Elemental Genres.

So, if you’re at all like me, and you want to expand the story you’re telling. Try drafting a new story from the skin and bones of your old one. Change the protagonist. Change the genre. Change the plot. Change the twist ending. But maybe try and keep the world and themes consistent and see what you come up with. You might be pretty surprised with what comes out.

And speaking of twist endings, what’s your favourite?


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