Going with your gut.

Lately, I’m re-writing and expanding a novella that some of you might have read before about a group of artists who are friends and lovers and circle in and out of each other’s lives. (Sound familiar?)

Anyway, I’m re-writing and adapting this story—which I love and hope to publish independently sometime in the fall—and there are a few things I changed from the original to expand it into a more complete novel.

Most of those things I really like. I love the expanded story lines for some of the characters, and I love the way I can delve into character’s thoughts and motivations more. I love the new setting and the new characters. And I made one big change to the timeline that I thought was the right thing to do because of some feedback.

It wasn’t.

It was suggested to me and made sense, so I twisted and turned it. I made it work for the story. I convinced myself it was the best thing to do, but it never really felt right. Something about it always put me off, but I stuck with it, and sent the first draft out to my pre-readers, some of whom hadn’t ever read the story before, even in novella form.

Guess what their biggest criticism was.

That’s right! That timeline shift that I worked so hard to convince myself was the best thing for the story was the first thing mentioned.

And that kind of makes me happy.

Because I think it’s a good lesson to learn about writing. It’s really important to listen to input from your readers. After all, it can be easy to write something you love, and not be able to see the places where it won’t make sense to your audience. You wrote it! You know the whole world and all the motivations and thoughts and feelings of all the characters. But your audience doesn’t, and that’s why feedback is so important.

However, there are also times when you write something, and it just seems right, even if you can’t say exactly why. There is a certain instinct you develop about your characters and your stories, and sometimes that’s what you need to go with, even if it doesn’t seem ideal close-up.

Maybe it’s a mood thing, or a voice thing, or something I don’t even know how to label because I haven’t actually been writing that long, but it’s definitely there. (See the precise language in that sentence? That’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks.)

So what am I going to do?

I’m going to rewrite the timeline and put it back where it was.

Because in this case, I should have stuck with my first instinct. Gut feeling. Writer’s intuition, or whatever you want to call it. And now I know that when I’m re-writing something, and I have to convince myself over and over it’s the right thing to do, I should probably take a second look at that suggestion. And maybe just stick with the original.

 Has there been a time when you’ve written something and revised it, but then wished later that you hadn’t? Why did you change it in the first place? Why wasn’t it the best choice? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Writing.

6 Comments

  1. Okay, so not a writer at the moment (I have several story ideas in my head that I am considering writing up but it seems so daunting at the moment!!) but I wanted to throw my opinion in. Chalk one up for the opposition. I LIKE the timeline in that story (the title fails me at the moment). I like the sense of unknown that the plot line brings. HOWEVER, I do think you do timelines well (e.g. The River and its beginning chapter conversations). So most definitely stick to what flows right with you. If you’re happy with the flow, then it will show in the writing.

  2. Thanks, Laura!
    I hadn’t changed the non-linear timeline so much as compressed it, in a way. Things happened faster, but on a re-read, it just didn’t work! So I’m changing it back and I think it’ll be stronger for it.
    And don’t worry about the old title. It’s getting a new one … to be determined. 🙂

  3. I definitely think you have to go with your gut. I know that I’ve politely declined suggestions from pre-readers. I’ve also had a lot of great ideas from others.

    The only regrets I’ve ever add as far as taking advice is putting more sex than was necessary in a fanfic story, and that was prompted by writing for a specific audience that expects that. I’ve since rethought my priorities when it comes to fanfic (and writing in general), so that pressure isn’t an issue anymore. It definitely wouldn’t ever be a problem in original writing.

    I’m stubborn and opinionated, but I also doubt myself often and those tendencies tend to balance me out as far as taking advice. I also think it’s important to seek feedback from a diverse group of people.

    Ultimately it’s your story, you have to do what feels right, but sometimes you don’t know until you try. Experimenting with different approaches can ultimately make the story better in the end. And let me know when you’ve revised again so I can have a look!

  4. I’m reading CH’s Lily Bard books at the moment and it’s amazing how many things she has literally re-used in the SVM books. A character called Claude and a mention of a Gracious Plenty being two of the biggies.
    She’s basically re-written and adopted (rather than adapted) material she created in one novel across to another. If she can do it – you can do it. Feedback is all good and well however you should be writing on your own terms. It’s something so personal that any attempt at collaboration (in any way) seems counterintuitive. Ultimately it has to be your vision otherwise you are never going to nail it and be 100% happy with the end result.
    I can’t wait to read it even though that means wishing the summer away!

    • Thanks! You know, it was a suggestion, but I’m the one who chose to take it, so like I said, it was a good lesson to learn!

      Thanks for your enthusiam for the story! 😀

      I have to say, I also really enjoyed the Lily Bard books. I found that character to be wonderfully understated. Hope you enjoyed them!

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