dep8hqfvyaaww7gLast week, I wrote about revising an old, retired manuscript…

Except this isn’t just revision. This is full-on rewriting. At this point, I don’t know how much of the original text and story will remain. I have a suspicion. Quite a bit of the bad guy will be hanging around. He’s sexy and scary, and terrific and terrible. The supporting characters, especially the main male character, are interesting and likely to remain largely unchanged – at least in personality.

That MC, though? She’s gotta go. She’s a pain in the ass and flat out awful. Not in the unlikable, but I still want to read about her way, either. More like in the I wanna smack her head into a wall, or throw this book across the room way. Not good. She’s due for a major overhaul.

And the plot? Holy slowpokes Batman! Let’s get this shit in gear, huh? I get that literary can be slower, but this is fucking molasses on a winter morning.

So, if it’s so much work, and such a pain in the ass, why am I doing this? After all, this was a story that got rejection after rejection, and finally got shelved in favor of a stronger piece.

Why make the choice to revise an old manuscript rather than write something new?

Oh, lots of reasons… But two really stand out…

At its core, it’s a good concept, and there are some really compelling bits in there (the bad guy in particular) that just won’t let me go.

It’s a story that is clearly pointing in a particular direction—now that I’m able to see it. Unlike the new piece rattling around in my head that is wavering between domestic thriller and romantic suspense.

After tearing the piece apart last week, I got to the even harder work of rebuilding the framework. It’s just an outline at the moment, a bare sketch with a few scenes (all the bad guy’s) left virtually untouched. But there is a foundation, a direction, a rough plot…

And it’s very different than before.

The pace is faster (thankfully), the steamy romance replaced with simmering chemistry and tension (damn it, I like my kissing books, but I think the tension better serves this story), and the main character has undergone a personality reboot—she’s still in the fledgling stages, but this woman is a vast improvement over her previous incarnation.

So now it begins… the work of digging into characters, finding their voices, and building their worlds, and then gleefully throwing havoc in their paths.

It’s a question that plagues most writers at some point – where do I start this story?

Don’t start with waking up. Start in the middle of the action. Don’t start with an info dump or backstory. Open with a hook. Do this. Don’t do that. The advice on how to craft the opening scenes of your novel is wildly varied, and often contradictory.

So which advice do you heed? The answer is simple, and horrible. You do what is right for your story.

Oh ugh! Really? Did I just write that? Yep. I did. Because it’s true.

I recently put the finishing touches on a new romantic suspense, and (writer angst about being a total hack aside) I’m pretty pleased with the story. I set out to write a tale that stayed firmly within a genre. It was my first real attempt at plotting before I started writing. It was a challenge and a learning experience for me, and I’ve got to say I’m damn happy with the results.

Then I got to the point in the process that’s hardest for me. Turning the story over to beta readers and critique partners. There is always a moment of abject fear: What if they hate it? What if it’s terrible? What if… What if… What if…

The responses come in, and… they’re not terrible. That thing I was debating deleting? Yep. Ditch it. That other scene I wasn’t sure about? Everyone loves. Oh, huh, glad someone caught that; don’t I feel silly for that mistake.

But… the starting point… One suggests an earlier start (something I had done but deleted – more on that in a moment). Another suggests a later start. Still another thinks it’s perfect just as it is. And… and… and…

If there was some sort of agreement, or unified voice, I’d have no doubts. But this? I can’t even tell if the story really does start in the wrong spot, or if it’s just that particular writer’s approach to story telling.

Back to that earlier start thing… I had, in early stages, started the story much earlier. In fact, right where someone suggested. When I finished and looked at the whole story, I realized that was the wrong starting point. A couple of trusted brainstorming partners agreed – for the genre, it slowed it down too much. Sure, it was an action-packed scene, filled with tension and emotion, but it was not the right starting point for the story I wanted to tell.

So, what am I gonna do?

This is where that simple and horrible answer comes in. I’m going to take an honest and dispassionate look at the story. I’m going to go back to those trusted brainstorming partners. I’m going to pick apart everything until I’m reasonably certain that I’m starting in the right spot… for my story. A different writer might start this tale in a different place.

And y’know what? That’s totally OK.