My friends and I recently took part in an escape room adventure, where we had to escape a locked, themed room in an allotted time.
Ours was the Gold Rush room, where we were trapped in a mine, and we had to solve various puzzles before the timer hit 60 minutes. So, did we succeed, or were we doomed…?
Before I reveal the answer, the escape room concept made me think the dilemmas writers face with a common editorial request: rewrites.
Similar to escape room puzzles, if something isn’t quite working first time around in your story, it’s not a matter of giving up or settling for second best, but trying a new approach in order to make it work. I love the quote by Ernest Hemingway:
The only kind of writing is rewriting.
Maybe the characterisation isn’t as strong as it could be, or the plot flags in the second half. What then? I’d suggest leaving the story for a few hours, or even days, and then go back to it. If something isn’t quite gelling, it will become apparent with fresh eyes.
If one of your characters says something which sounds out of tune with her personality, then rewrite it. Or if your story ends with more of a whimper rather than a satisfying conclusion, then again rewrite it.
Put the write in rewrite
I often think writers shy away from rewrites, especially in relation to dialogue, thinking any alterations inferior to what formed in their imaginations first time around.
The whole creative story process can be likened to compiling a jigsaw, where you have lots of individual ideas and words forming in your mind; though it might take a few attempts before the story puzzle begins to take shape.
So, did we manage to escape the Gold Rush room? Sadly, no, we ran out of time. Fortunately, your story writing isn’t on a similar timer. If something isn’t working quite like it should, then I’d encourage you to rewrite, and then rewrite some more.
The only requirement is a willingness to try a new approach.