The Challenge of Rewriting

On the fourth day of the New Year’s 30 Day Challenge, I’ve decided to take a look at the first chapter of my novel, Dimenxia, which I wrote 4 years ago. I’ve never had to do a substantial rewrite of a piece of literature before, and I decided to share my ideas to potentially help out other authors going through the process.

For the sake of context, I’d like to include the chapter in its entirety here in this one long quote:

Nightmare

His head ringing from the most pain he’s felt in his adult life, he opens his eyes to a sideways view of a darkened hallway. Screams fill his ears, calling out for help. His arms are glued to the floor through some invisible force, but he is able to move his feet. Footsteps make their way near.
Struggling against the ground, he spends his energy trying to force his arms in the air. A tearing sound louder than the screams makes its way to his ears. The ripping of his own flesh becomes apparent, as a pool of blood spreads onto the ground from his mouth. The bonds were broken. Pushing himself to his feet, he looks into the large elaborately decorated mirror as the footsteps draw closer, and the screams die down.
Blood streams down his face onto his dingy white shirt from wounds surrounding his mouth. Strands of black cord dangle from his lips, still attached to a few of the holes where they once rested. Was his mouth sewn shut? Had he forced his lips open, ripping right through the flesh being cut by the cord?
He falls to his knees and a blood-curdling scream emanates from his once prize-winning profile. The ringing becomes so bad, he is sure it’s not inside his head. The footsteps are now sounding further away in the opposite direction, receding. What was making those sounds?
Trying to make it back to his feet, he uses a nearby wall to brace himself. His arm breaks through the wall, into the adjoining room, knocking over a tall candelabrum, setting the expensive-locking rug on fire. The footsteps stopped. Suddenly aware of only his own breath and the drip crimson stream pouring down his face, he hears the footsteps returning. They’re getting faster. Now there are two sets of feet, each from an opposite direction.
Panicking, he quickly gets to his feet. Looking in both directions, he can only see about 6 feet in front of his own face. If he doesn’t make a decision now, he’s definitely dead. He takes off running to the right. Lightheaded and dizzy, he feels excruciating pain throughout his body, from his torn lips to his dislocated and dangling right arm as he slowly makes his way down the hall.
The footsteps grow near.
An intense pain shoots through his right side, making him stumble to the ground with a loud thump. He pulls the arrow from his right shoulder, leaving a dime-sized hole straight through to his back.
The footsteps are so close.
Unable to think with the pain coursing through his very soul, he hears the footsteps growing even closer. His eyes gain focus once again, and he sees a 6″ space between the floor and wall. He rolls under despite the pain.
The footsteps finally converge at his location. Two sets of feet walk towards each other.
“Where’d he go?” a deep, raspy voice asked.
The faint, muffled scream of a woman comes through the walls to their other side.
“Well, at least we still have her, that’s what the boss wanted,” the same voice said.
Thump! The four legs of a black cat hit the ground, jumping off the silent party and sniffing around the whole where he lays clinging onto consciousness.
“Rrraaaaaarrr” the cat keeps on growling and growling.
He suddenly sits up in his bed, sweating from head to toe, soaking his sheets through. The alarm must have been going off for the past few minutes. His hand reaches up to the scars on his face, feeling the distinct absence of hair on his otherwise-bearded face. He’s had the same dream for two years. He wonders if the horrible memories of the last hours of his wife’s life would ever leave him.

There is a lot to this passage that makes it striking to me. Originally, it was written partially from a dream, and it was the start of the Overneath universe as I knew it. Since then, there have been so many other stories and characters come out of this universe, that many things have changed.

First is that you will notice that our main character is without a name. This was something I did early on because I couldn’t fathom writing much more about the subject, as it was written through more of a verbal diarrhea method than anything else.

Also, I’m not very satisfied with the thing as a whole. It’s short, and there are many elements that have changed over the last 4 years in regards to the rest of the storyline which have some indirect bearing on this passage.

The Revision
Here is the new revised version, with which I’m not entirely sure I am impressed:

Nightmare

As he opens his eyes to a sideways view of a darkened hallway, Jonathon’s head rings with the most excruciating pain he’s felt in his adult life. Hoarse screams fill his ears, begging for help. His arms are glued to the cold concrete floor through some unseen force, but he is able to move his legs. The sound of steel-toed boots quickly traversing the corridor draws near.
Struggling against the ground, Jonathon spends his energy trying to force his arms in the air. A tearing sound louder than the screams makes its way to his ears. The ripping of his own flesh becomes apparent, as a pool of blood spreads onto the ground from his mouth. The bonds were broken. Pushing himself to his feet, he looks into the large elaborately decorated mirror as the footsteps draw closer, and the screams die down.
Blood streams down his face onto his dingy white shirt from wounds surrounding his mouth. Strands of black cord dangle from his lips, still attached to a few of the holes where they once rested. Was his mouth sewn shut? His head swam while he attempted to regain a clear memory of the past 48 hours. He had forced his lips open, with the thick cord tearing right through the flesh.
He falls to his knees and a blood-curdling scream emanates from his once handsome profile. The ringing becomes so bad, he is sure it’s not inside his head. The footsteps are now sounding further away in the opposite direction, receding.
“Where am I?” Jonathon can barely even pose the question in his own mind through the fog of pain and ear-splitting noise.
Trying to make it back to his feet, he uses a nearby ceramic-tiled wall to brace himself. His arm breaks through the wall, into the adjoining room, knocking over a tall candelabrum, setting the expensive-looking rug on fire. The footsteps stopped. Suddenly aware of only his own breath and the deep crimson stream pouring down his face, he hears the footsteps returning. They’re getting faster. Now there are two sets of feet, each from an opposite direction.
Panicking, he quickly gets to his feet once again. Looking in both directions, he can only see about 6 feet in front of his own face in the dimly-lit corridor. If he doesn’t make a decision now, he’s definitely dead. He takes off running to his right. Light-headed and dizzy, he feels the mind-numbing pain throughout his body, from his torn lips to his dislocated and dangling right arm as he slowly makes his way down the hall, left arm steadying him while he regains his coordination.
The footsteps grow near.
An intense pain shoots through his right side, making him collapse to the ground with a loud thump. He pulls the bronze-headed arrow from his right shoulder, leaving a dime-sized hole straight through to his back.
The footsteps are so close.
Unable to think with the pain coursing through his very soul, he hears the footsteps growing even closer. His eyes gain focus once again, and he sees a 20 inch wide ventilation grate just a foot in front of his face. He quietly but quickly pulls the grate off and slithers in backward to find that the shaft curves downward with enough space to stand.
The footsteps finally converge at his location. Two sets of boots walk towards each other, slowing as they draw near.
“I’m sure the arrow hit him,” says a low, tinny voice in a dry tone.
“Then where is he?” The words came from the opposite direction, yet with the same voice.
Jonathon realizes that he has forgotten to replace the grate, which the pursuers would easily notice lying on the floor. As quietly as he can, he lifts the grate and slowly pulls it in toward the opening in the wall. He cringes as a distinct scraping sound issues forth from the metal. Just then, the faint, muffled scream of a woman comes through the walls to their other side, hiding the sound of his escape.
The boots change orientation toward the scream.
“Our orders have changed. He is no longer of consequence to us,” says the first pursuer.
The feet begin to move in the direction of the scream, leaving crimson bootprints as they pass down the corridor, narrowly missing the bronze-headed arrow as they begin.
Uncertain what to do next, Jonathon tries to hold his head to straighten out his thoughts. The mental fog comes and goes at a pace not unlike a strobe light, making it difficult to form any thoughts that carry over moment to moment.
His wife’s voice awakens him, and he realizes that he’s been passed out in the shaft for an indeterminate amount of time. He rubs his wrist where the absence of his perpetual watch strikes him as odd. Jonathon quickly remembers how he got into the grate, and the circumstances surrounding his escape attempt.
“Jonathon,” a wispy, almost extinct voice fills his head in a way suggesting to him that he is not experiencing it through his ears.
“Alice?” He finds it difficult to use his vocal cords and extremely painful to move his mouth with the already scabbing wounds on his face.
“Jonathon. Go. Run. I’m already dying, please, save yourself.” The urgency and emotion in her voice convinces him that he has no hope of ever seeing his wife again. The only sensations now passing through his mind were screams of agony and images of a blood-splattered once-white lab coat.
Jonathon musters up the energy to stand up inside the ventilation shaft, and pushes the grate through into the corridor without thinking about the loud clanking sound it makes. He puts his arms through the opening, and bracing them on either side of the corridor wall, he pulls himself onto his chest with a burst of energy.
Searing pain shoots through his scalp, and he realizes he is being pulled off of the ground by his hair. He is lifted off the ground, only to be dropped forward onto his chest again, where he passes out.
He suddenly sits up in his bed, sweating from head to toe, soaking his sheets through. The alarm must have been going off for the past few minutes. His hand reaches up to the scars on his face, feeling the distinct absence of hair on his otherwise-bearded face. He’s had the same dream for more than eleven years. He wonders if the horrible memories of the last hours of his wife’s life would ever leave him.

I took out a few of the elements that may have been striking in the first read of this passage, but did not mesh well with the rest of the story down the line. I’ve already written 10 other chapters, so going back to the original chapter which was written 4 years ago is a hard thing. Also, remember that I started writing this at around 10pm on January 1st, so my future self may hate me for some of the edits done here.

The chapter has been expanded from 630 to 1094 words. There were many grammar errors and other mistakes that I hadn’t seen at the time. I think my style has changed drastically from the time I wrote it originally.

I don’t see this as being the definitive version, as most likely I will be rewriting it multiple times in the future. This has given me cause to read through the 11 chapters that I’ve written and ensure continuity before getting into newer fronts.

Revising and rewriting is a very difficult process, one that should not be taken lightly by authors of any stage of a career. I think it’s important to remember that your work must change for it to be good in the long run.

Well, that wraps up day 4 of the New Year’s Challenge for me. I’m going to bed!