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New Game Plus - Writer's Edition | Rewriting Your Book Isn't Always Starting Over From Scratch

If my fingers aren't rapidly tapping away at my keyboard, chances are they're curled around my rose gold DualShock controller, indexes poised on the triggers and thumbs nestled in the slightly concave groove of the sticks.


I've become an avid gamer as an adult, my favorite title of all being Red Dead Redemption II (as longtime readers of the blog can attest). I've played through the main storyline a total of four times now and virtually live in the post-epilogue. There's something calming about mounting my horse and galloping across the wilderness while I listen to a podcast or an audiobook.


I keep coming back to Red Dead Redemption II for its characters. Even knowing the heartache that awaits, it's only a few months of roaming free and running Beecher's Hope that I'm starting up a new game and reuniting with my found family of outlaws back in Colter.


Replayability is something I think a lot of us might consider when buying a new game. With many titles costing upwards of $60, we want to make sure we're getting our money's worth. While there are plenty of titles I've felt satisfied with as a one-and-done playthrough, I love having a reason, a desire, to go back to the start. This might be to beat the game on a harder difficulty, earn every trophy, or find all of the collectibles hidden throughout the world. In cases with branching narratives or multiple endings, it's interesting to see the alternative outcomes and which choices impact what.


But what about games that only have one ending? Outside of collectibles and trophies, what might they offer returning players?


That's where New Game Plus comes in!


New Game Plus is an unlockable mode rewarded for completing your first playthrough of a game. Depending on the title, players are able to start a brand-new game with a few perks. Ghost of Tsushima's New Game Plus lets you carry over any gear and techniques earned in your first playthrough, in addition to new items that are only available after completing the game's story. The Evil Within lets you keep all of Sebastian's upgrades, grants access to the Chapter Select menu, gives you new weapons, and opens up the Nightmare and AKUMU difficulty levels (which in turn unlock brass knuckles upon finishing to equip for your next run after that).


In short, New Game Plus allows players to go back to the beginning of a video game's main storyline with the knowledge and upgrades obtained in their first go-around, giving them an advantage while presenting new challenges for them to take on.


Starting over, but not from scratch.


Going back to square one can be intimidating in any area, and writing is no exception. Especially when it feels like you're starting over completely.


That's something I've had to muddle through lately.


Back in February, I dropped the first two chapters of my current WIP, A Tided Love into my writing group's shared Google Drive for feedback. There were some gut feelings about the project that I wanted to get confirmation on and things I wanted to troubleshoot. Not to mention it had been a bit since I'd steadily worked on it and I was feeling motivated by our past writerly discussions.


Everyone's critiques were so insightful and helped me brainstorm some potential changes to improve what I had so far and what was left to write.


It wouldn't be a simple fix, though. There were big changes ahead that included cutting a character, moving some scenes around, and changing a chunk of the storyline to better reflect newly redefined character motives, all culminating in a total overhaul.


Replot. Restructure. Rewrite.


I admittedly held off on it. After the stress I had put myself through to finish my outline before the end of Preptober and writing frantically every day during NaNoWriMo, the prospect of scrapping all of that time and effort and frustration was rather disheartening. It felt like everything was for all naught.


Starting over was the last thing I wanted to do, even though I knew deep down it was the best course for the story. I got out my sticky notes and pens and played around with the scenes I wanted to keep and made a list of the elements I wanted to keep versus what would need to be changed or cut, and from there it was a matter of bridging the gaps.


With everything laid out like that, I started to realize I had a lot more to work with than I thought. I wasn't starting over, per se, but starting again.


I've taken to calling this rewrite "First Draft Plus," and reframing it has made such a difference for me. It's making the rewrite less scary and more of a new challenge to embrace and have fun with, just as I feel a first draft ought to be when you're just exploring and telling yourself the story. Like New Game Plus, I'm going into this second attempt armed with pre-existing knowledge of the story. I know my characters better and now have a clearer sense of what they're really looking for and needing in life. I'm not only aware of the story's flaws thanks to my friends' advice but have a rough idea of how to fix them.


It's kind of replaying a boss level in New Game Plus. You're not wildly charging into the unknown with a dull, rusty knife, a basic pistol, and a crafted shiv that'll break after three stabs. Your character is more robust because they've kept their increased stats, and you have gotten more familiar with the game's mechanics over time. Maybe you have a favorite weapon from your first playthrough that's been drastically upgraded or you have shiny and powerful addition to your arsenal as a perk of New Game Plus. You know this enemy, how they move and attack, and how to defeat them.


It's a new experience, but you're not going into it totally unprepared for what's to come. You know what you're up against and, with the knowledge and gear on you, you're stronger than you were when you embarked on your first playthrough of the game.


That's how I've been looking at this rewrite of A Tided Love. It does feel like I'm playing on a harder difficulty because there is so much to do but I'm excited by the possibilities that come with a fresh start. This First Draft Plus is sending me back to Chapter One, but I'm feeling more prepared than I did with the first iteration—for one thing, I'm giving myself adequate time to plot this new version of A Tided Love instead of rushing to have an outline ready for November 1st. I'm also armed with the feedback from my writing friends and their suggestions for reworking certain aspects I was worried about.


Overall, this New Draft Plus mindset has made it easier to take on this rewrite. It's still intimidating, sure, but it doesn't feel as unbeatable as it once did.


I'm just hoping it's not as formidable of a challenge as AKUMU mode...





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