Friday, August 9, 2013

Writing is . . . Rewriting! (My Journey in Completing The Return of Cassandra Todd) by Darrel Nelson

Darrel Nelson
While skipping down the path to publication, have you ever believed that once you typed “the end” after the last sentence in your manuscript that you were “done?” That what you put on the page couldn’t be any better—only to discover it wasn’t even close to the truth? You’re not alone! Today on Seriously Write, author Darrel Nelson shares what he’s learned about the writing process on his own journey. (Read about Darrel's path to publication in the article on Seriously Write, "Don't Give Up.") ~ Dawn

Writing is . . . Rewriting!
(My Journey in Completing The Return of Cassandra Todd)

by Darrel Nelson

 I clearly remember signing my first book contract with a publisher and having my manuscript handed over to a professional editor. I naively assumed that my work on The Anniversary Waltz was of such a level that it would require very little editing. I mean I had sweated and slaved and anguished over every word in the manuscript. I envisioned the editor sending me a note saying something to this effect: Nicely done, Darrel. I hardly had any work to do because your style, pacing, character development, point of view consistency, chronology, grammar, and development of the setting were excellent.

Remember, this was my first book contract. And I did use the word naively, right? Imagine my surprise when the manuscript came back literally torn to shreds! At least it seemed in shreds because of all the “suggestions” for changes. My editor was asking for major rewrites! And I’ll be honest—it took some deep soul-searching before I began the process that was to become my daily ritual: rewriting and more rewriting.

When my second novel, The Return of Cassandra Todd, was delivered to my editor, I was better prepared. Or so I thought. I originally wrote the novel in the first person point of view, from the main male character’s perspective. But after my editor got through with it, I decided that I was going to have to rewrite the ENTIRE novel. The first person POV wasn’t working. I needed to give the main female character a voice too. So began the process of weaving her POV into the novel and taking out scenes—whole chapters actually—that no longer fit. I lost sections that had taken me hours and hours of research to do. And, yes, there were some tears shed along the way.

It was a three-month process. But in the end, I was pleased with the results. Oh, there was still some rewriting to do after that, but it was on a smaller scale. And eventually my editor and I saw eye to eye and the manuscript was accepted.

But . . . surprise! The rewriting didn’t stop there. When I received the galley proofs from the publisher, I read them over carefully and ended up making one hundred eighty additional (minor) changes to the manuscript. As a matter of fact, when I sent in the last change, the publisher told me that there wasn’t time because the book had already gone to the printers. An hour later, the publisher called me with good news. They were able to make the change in the nick of time.

So what have I learned about writing? Simply this. Writing is . . . rewriting! And more rewriting!


Writing is . . . rewriting! And more rewriting! Click to tweet.

Is typing “the end” really “the end?” Click to tweet.

The Return of Cassandra Todd is the story of a young man named Turner Caldwell, who could never have imagined that the outdoor training and survival skills he learned at Camp Kopawanee, a summer youth camp where he worked four years as a leader, would one day become so crucial. When Cassandra Todd, the girl whose friends made his life miserable in high school, re-enters his life with her little son in tow and asks for help in eluding her abusive husband, Turner finds himself entangled in a life and death struggle that will require every skill he has in order to survive. The novel is a contemporary action/adventure love story that will keep the readers turning the page in a headlong rush to see how things turn out.

I am a schoolteacher by profession and I taught school for thirty-seven years. I retired in June 2012 so that I could write full time. Raymond, Alberta, is my hometown, and I attended the University of Lethbridge after graduating from high school, majoring in English. I have always loved to write. I started writing stories before I was old enough to realize I was writing stories. It seemed a natural thing to pick up a pencil and paper and create a world simply by using words—worlds of adventure in steaming jungles (Tarzan was an early influence on me) or realms of adventure in outer space (Buck Rogers).

But as I have grown older, I have discovered that the real inspiration for me is exploring the theme of love and how it can make such a difference in the world. The Anniversary Waltz was published in May 2012. It is the story of Adam and Elizabeth Carlson's courtship, set in northern Montana at the end of World War II. The Return of Cassandra Todd was released in February 2013. It is set in modern day Denver, and is the story of Cassandra's desperate flight from her abusive husband, and the timely assistance she receives from Turner. I am currently working on my third novel, Following Rain, which deals with the saving power of truth and love.

For more information, feel free to check out my website at .


  1. Darrel, I hear you. Been there, done that, the T-shirt is too small to wear anymore. Anyone who thinks they've finished when their manuscript is accepted is in for a large dose of reality.
    Thanks for the reminder, and best wishes for future writing...and re-writing...and (well, you know).

  2. Thanks for your comments, Richard. The "dose of reality" is often a bitter pill to swallow, isn't it? Another dose I'm experiencing is the challenge of PROMOTING my books now that the editing is completed. But that's another article!

  3. I'm so glad you got those last 180 changes in, Darrel. How disheartening that would have been to do all that work and find it was too late to make a difference.

  4. Sandra, I'm glad I could get them in too, but I'm sure I drove the publisher crazy. The changes necessitated two one-hour telephone calls in which I went over the changes, page by page. But the publisher was very good about it, actually, and said it was no problem that our conversation went through lunch hour!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, Darrel. I've recently tidied up my mss.--lost count of how many times this past rewrite was--for my agent who has now submitted it.
    Although it's a lot of work (I've put in 12 hour days!) I believe the story cleared up and the characters jumped more into life. At least, that's what I'm praying :) So, I truly appreciate your advice on rewriting. I'm going to check out your website now!

  6. Hi Darrell,

    Congratulations on being able to retire from teaching to write full time. You're living my dream. I have yet to have my ms accepted. I'm still plugging at it and with advice from blogs like yours, I think I may be ready when the time comes.

  7. Elaine, I've put in some 12-hour days myself and can appreciate your sacrifice and commitment. All the best in seeing your book through to publication . . . and then promoting it. I've discovered that promoting my books is even more challenging than writing them.

    Angela, don't give up on trying to get your ms accepted. My journey to publication was a thirty-year one, with piles of rejection slips along the way. Keep at it and best wishes to you.


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