In a recent post, I shared my plans to completely rewrite one of my historical romances, Bound to the Heart, rather than start another round of edits. The process of stripping this story down to its bones and tearing it to shreds has been intimidating, but I'm already noticing signs of improvement in my style compared to where I was as a writer the last time I took a hard look at it.
Rewriting a WIP is a bit different from writing the first draft of a new project. While there are times where it feels like I'm starting at square one, that's not exactly true. I'm not worrying about plotting because the path of the story is established (save for adjustments I'll need to make after deciding to scrap a chapter). My characters are more developed and not voices I'm trying to pin down.
That said, I am starting over in a sense, and that's had me falling back on some of the strategies and techniques I've come to rely on over the years. The playlists curated to capture the vibes of the story and represent its cast are often on loop when I'm not writing. My laptop's desktop background is a photo of Alvaro Soler, who looks pretty similar to how I imagine my protagonist's appearance. I've recreated key settings in The Sims to give myself an explorable 3D model embellished with the addition of Regency CC.
Not only does this rewrite have me revisiting an older WIP, it has me revisiting methods that haven't played a significant role on my writing as of late.
One of those is the Process Letter.
The Process Letter was a common assignment in my college writing classes and could have been on a weekly basis or after various meetings such as following a workshop in which our peers critiqued our work or ahead of midterms, or would accompany our work if sending it to our instructor. These would be mini self-assessing essays going over where we were with our projects, what we took away from class, anything we were struggling with or wanted advice on, and give us a chance to celebrate victories like filling in a plot hole or reaching the required page count.
Process Letters acted as a space to work through areas in our writing we were not feeling as confident in, but also gave us a chance to just vent and spill our thoughts onto the page. For me, writing down questions I had about my writing also led me to find the answers I needed. It was like having someone to bounce ideas off of because it framed things differently.
Even though Process Letters were helpful to me in college, they're a tool that fell to the wayside after graduation.
Something about this rewrite, though, has me changing the way I take on writing projects and reshaping my approaches. After all, this is the first time I've ever actually decided to strip my WIP down to nothing and rebuild it from the ground up.
So why revive the Process Letter now?
I think it stems from not wanting to be in this alone.
Everyone knows writing is my passion, but they don't know much about my ongoing stories, and part of that comes with my hesitance to share details. Whether it's on Twitter or in an exchange with a former classmate, I have a harder time talking about my WIPs in depth.
I've never been one to let people read my writing. Apart from peer workshops (which revolved around things that were not any of my ongoing novel projects), the only people who I've let see my work are my critique partner and a few beta readers.
When I moved a couple years ago, I had hoped to join a local writing group to make new writing friends and find a similar routine to the classes I took in college including workshops and other exercises. But then 2020 happened and even now most group websites indicate they are not meeting.
Writing can be isolating. Even though we spend hours in the company of our characters and may write with an audience in mind, it's something we tend to do alone.
Being an internet introvert doesn't help with that, either.
The aspect of writing solo rarely bothers me. There were times in college where we would devote an entire class period to writing as a group, but I always found it harder to concentrate on my own work.
This rewrite has me wanting someone to confide in. We hear all about first draft woes and about the throes of editing, but completely rewriting your WIP from scratch feels so strange. Deep down, I know it's the right move, but it feels like I'm plunging headfirst into uncharted waters because rewrites aren't something you see as much about.
That's one of the reasons I decided it was time to reunite with a Process Journal. I needed that space to lay out my feelings and explore them.
This rewrite is not only about reconnecting with my story, but reconnecting with myself as a writer. The intimacy of a journal allows this. The page is a safe space, away from my editing brain and its judgment, away from social media and the imposter syndrome it sparks, to pour my emotions into. A stream of unconscious thought to dive into where realizations can surface.
The past few years, I've started keeping my future readers in the back of my mind. Whether it comes to plot twists, how a character behaves, if a mention of a historical detail needs more elaboration in order to be understood.
Yet writers are frequently told to write the story they would most want to read. This doesn't negate the need to take some consideration for your audience into account, but it can make writing more... performative would be the word, I guess? Not creating something for the sole sake of just creating. Every stroke of the pen and tap of the keyboard must be with purpose. Perfected. Polished in editing which, of course, makes it good, but changes the dynamic between yourself and the story.
Entries in Process Journal are truly the first thing in a while that I've written purely for me. Nobody else will read it.
And I'm able to separate myself from my writing—strange as that may sound considering I'm writing in a journal.
It changes my perspective. My voice.
It's like sitting down with an old friend, just chatting about what I'm working on. Rather than bottling it all up as I'm prone to do, the pages of this journal are where I let everything out. Reminding myself of what's important as a creative soul. How much I have grown as a storyteller and where more needs to be done.
This rewrite is not only about me reconnecting with my writing, but reconnecting with myself as a writer.
As for the notebook itself, it's one I was simply drawn to.
Something about the galaxy print just stood out to me, but it wasn't until I saw the print on the cover that it became my Process Journal.
It's just a phase.
It's so fitting for where I am as a writer right now.
When we talk about our WIPs, we often refer to the stage we're at be it a first draft, edits or, in my case, a rewrite. The stories we tell develop and change every day—and we, as writers, evolve alongside them.
This year has been one of major shifts for me between starting to get my mental health under better control, a new job, and beginning to recognize where I need to recenter myself. Wanting to be better, not just as a writer, but a better version of myself.
I'm just in a new phase, right there with Bound to the Heart, and this Process Journal is here to help me work through some of that.