Rewrites and the Theseus Paradox

I finished a serious round of rewrites on Drawful the Awful this week. The story has not only been cleaned up, but has changed in some crucial plot points from its original telling. For example, it’s no longer King Nick who asks Drawful to kidnap his daughter to help her find a suitor, but now it’s Brooke asking Drawful to come get her so she can prove to her father she’s ready for the throne.

There have been several more changes throughout the story to align with the message of a strong Princess who’s ready and proud to rule her Kingdom on her own. I was lucky enough to have Loryn Stone read my first draft and offer her thoughts, and that feedback led to me making significant changes to how Fallon is introduced, Lando and Nick’s time together in the Palace City, and much more.

So, as the old riddle of Theseus’ ship goes: if I’ve changed the hull, the mast, the sails, and so much else about it, is it the same ship?

Yes and no.

Yes, because this is the story I wanted to tell from the start, it’s got the very same spirit, heart, and message I aspired to all along.

No, because I didn’t think much of it until last week. I said plenty times already that this started as a “joke” of a story, it was only ever supposed to be this one part I put up ages ago. Then came the full story idea, and I was ready to just “run the motions” on it: finish the draft, proofread, query a little, then self-publish and move on.

You notice that last step? I was ready before I even finished the draft to have it be a story that no agent would be interested in, that I’d self-publish and move on from.

Then, last week, after I’d gotten feedback from Loryn and my other regular editor, Alana (also fabulous) I had a storm of ideas for rewrites and changes. I looked over two pages of notes and ideas for all new scenes and rewrites of preexisting scenes, and I realized: Theseus was looking at changing quite a few major parts of his ship.

While I did a lot of editing for Beneath the Wood and Five Talents each, the work I did on neither ever exceeded edits and polish. The work I was looking at for Drawful the Awful was leagues beyond either of those. Did I really care about this project that much? As much or more than its predecessors?

The truth was, I didn’t. If I didn’t then I asked myself, why bother with this long list of extensive work? But I realized that I may not have cared about the initial idea so much when it was just a joke, but now? I do. I really believe in the spirit of it, I believe in the joy readers can find in the characters and humor as well as the values in the message. If I didn’t believe in it, I would have stopped right there and moved on, but instead, I set about diligently completing the rewrites, and after all the rewrites, Theseus still feels it’s his ship, and he’s ready to set sail on it.

One more round of proof reading, and I’ll be querying, and I can’t wait for you to all see how far it’s come since that first fateful joke idea months ago. As ever, we move forward.

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