Going through my old files, I found a story I wrote about 10 years ago. Reading it is a painful exercise in the futility of major editing. In order to bring this book up to scratch, I'm going to have to start from page one, sentence one and start all over again. Sometimes that is just easier than fixing an existing file.
It had been about 7 years from the time I finished one draft of By A Silken Thread to the time I did a total rewrite and sold it. - The majority of those seven years (about six years, nine months) it spent stuffed in a drawer somewhere while I worked on other projects. By the time I thought to bring it out of moth balls and mouse droppings, the technology had changed so dramatically, I was forced to update it. But that was all right. In the intervening years, I'd learned a lot about craft, character and plot development and knew I could do much better. I never gave it a second thought about delving in and beginning a fresh draft from the very first word.
-That's how I feel about this book. I call it "Timeless" though I doubt I'll stay with that trite title. It's a reincarnation tale that originally took place between NJ and Scotland. But as I started thinking about this story again about six months ago, I thought why did I bother to set the damn thing in Scotland when NJ has the exact topography I need for the death scenes? This state is so rich in history for the same time period I'd set the original story in. I would have information more readily available, since I live in the area I'm writing about. (Northwestern NJ not far from the Delaware Water Gap).
I can still keep the basic premise and action, reactions ect. but I will need to tighten the cast of characters and make more parallels between the past and present. I think with the changes I'm thinking of I may be able to pull this off.
There is something comforting to me about rewriting a story I've already written a few times. I don't know if it's because the characters have lived inside me so long I no longer feel as if I'm getting to know them, but already am very intimately acquainted with them. Or if it's because I already have a good idea where the story is going, even if I've changed it drastically. There is an inexplicable confidence in rewriting a book from scratch.
Have you ever taken something out of a drawer and totally rewritten it from page one, starting in a brand new file? If so, what are your feelings before, during and after the project?