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I truly believe that nothing you write ever goes to waste — at least, not for writers. We learn and gain experience from every piece we write — whether it's an essay for school, or a report for work, or a poem scratched on the back of a napkin, or an 80k novel shoved in the drawer. You see, the great thing about putting WIPs that weren't working at the time away, is that nothing is stopping you from going back at a later time to bring them back to life. Or, if more drastic measures are necessary, cannibalizing its parts to create a completely new version of the novel.
Granted, rewriting a trunked WIP isn't skipping through a field of daisies whilst singing songs, but if you break it down into manageable steps, this seemingly daunting task can become significantly less overwhelming.
- Choose your soon-to-be reincarnated WIP wisely. Depending on how long your WIP has been sitting in the proverbial (or possibly literal) drawer and how much writing you've done between WIPs, you may have many WIPs to choose from when considering a rewrite. The key to a successful rewrite, however, begins with this crucial step.
The good news is chances are, if you've become excited about a project again, or found new inspiration for an old WIP, you're headed in the right direction. We writers tend to have pretty decent instincts when it comes to what WIPs we're ready to work on, so just the fact that you're seriously considering rewriting an old WIP is a fantastic sign. The key is to make sure you choose a project that you're willing to put a lot of hard work, time and effort into. You need to be excited about your work in order to really be willing to put the time you'll need into it to create a decent rewrite.
- Read it through (again). Before you begin any major rewrite, you need to re-familiarize yourself with your work. Since this is a trunked WIP, chances are it's been a while since you really took a good look at it, so now's the time to sit down and read from beginning to end.
Depending on how long it's been since you wrote it, this step may be a bit painful, but if you're able to look at your old work, see the potential in it and cringe at your writing from however long ago at the same time, it's actually a good thing. It means you've grown as a writer, your writing skill has improved and you may very well have a potentially excellent rewrite on your hands.
Note: now is NOT the time to edit. NO EDITING (seriously). Make notes on what you like, what you love and what you hate. Make a list of elements you'd like to keep in your rewrite and elements that need serious tweaking (or removal altogether). Now, however, is not the time to edit, because chances are you'll be ripping the WIP apart and completely rewriting large portions of it anyway. Any editing you do in this stage will very likely be altered or erased later on while rewriting.
- Brainstorm. Now that you're familiar with your WIP and you have a list of elements you love and elements that need changing, it's time to delve deeper into the list. Brainstorm potential rewrite ideas — what works and what doesn't? Could you put it in a new setting? Rewrite the protagonist as someone new? Use the POV of a different character? Change the antagonist? Remember that you don't necessarily have to rewrite the same story — now's the time to consider maybe using the elements you like to create something entirely new. Push yourself to brainstorm new possibilities. You don't have to choose the craziest idea you put on your list, but you might surprise yourself with the scope of possibilities your WIP has.
- Know where you're going with your new rewrite? Good. Now get to work. In other words: start writing.
Have you ever rewritten or taken elements from a trunked WIP? What tips would you add to the list?