The key word for this overhaul of the pulpy sci-fi spec is exactly that: an overhaul.
And a really big one at that.
One of the notes I got on the previous draft was “It’s a fun story, but there’s still a feeling of ‘we’ve seen this before'”.
What a powerful motivator to really shake things up. The last thing a writer wants to hear is that their work is predictable or just filling in the blanks for a template with this kind of story. Readers and audiences want originality, so that’s what we need to give them.
Regarding this story, while the overall concept and primary plotline are still the same, a good majority of the rest of the details have changed in some way or another, with no doubt more to come.
Even though I’ll jot down ideas for particular moments, scenes or sequences occurring throughout the story, I gather them up and then write/develop them in a linear manner – working my way through the story from start to finish. A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on and so on. Not everybody’s style, but it work for me.
It’s probably safe to say I worked my way through at least four or five versions of Act One before arriving at its current version – the one I felt was the strongest. And even that’s been tweaked here and there since then.
Despite having a hard copy of the previous draft readily available – more as reference material than anything, a key part of this process has been for me to NOT look at it – especially when I was feeling stuck. My objective is to keep trying something really different, and sneaking a peek at what I’m trying to avoid won’t help. If anything, it would probably point me in a wrong direction.
I’ve written before about a writer should do what they can to avoid having the reader/audience know what’s going to come next. Such is the case for this rewrite.
As I work my way through, it’s with a mindset that looks at a scene or sequence as a whole, along with “what’s the most likely thing to happen here?”
That’s followed immediately by “what would be the total opposite of that?” or “what would be completely and totally unexpected here, but still works within the context of the story?” Really striving towards taking a new approach is yielding some positive results. It’s quite a thrill when an idea pops out of nowhere, and it works even better than expected.
Added bonus – by forcing myself to come up with new ideas, there’s less need for me to keep the hard copy of the previous draft nearby. The more I avoid looking at it along with figuring things out for this draft, the more changes it produces. All that being said, I’ll still hold onto it, since there’s always a chance I might need something in there, but with the story constantly changing, even that’s becoming less likely.
The whole point of overhauling this story is to take what I had before and put an entirely new spin on the initial concept. I have a pretty good idea of what needs to happen, what I’d like to happen, and that big nebulous category of what could potentially happen (still working out the kinks on that one).
The road between what I started with and what the end result will be is without a doubt one that’s going to be very long, very twisted, fraught with hazards of numerous kinds, and might, at times, seem to go on forever.
Sounds like quite a hellish journey. And I’m loving every step of the way.