From about 1999 to 2002, I worked on a book called The Hero. It changed formats several times, from short story to screenplay to novel. I messed with the characters and the ending a lot, and finally settled on something that I thought was exciting, interesting, funny, and innovative.
Actually, it kind of sucked. It ended up being somewhat juvenile, like a cheap summer action flick. Even cheap summer action flicks have fans, and they do make money, but some people grow out of the guns-and-explosions genre and want something more engaging and relatable. So after a few years, I started to be embarrassed by The Hero because to me it was no longer all of the things I'd designed it to be. I also had written another book, The Search For the Emerald Blackbird, and improved my skills immensely in the process. By the time I was done writing the second book, The Hero looked like the first pancake.
I've spent the intervening 11 years writing professionally in a variety of different roles and mediums. I've adopted and abandoned styles and habits until the challenge became the style of no style and the habit of breaking habits. I've learned that big words are a pretentious waste of time, that long descriptions distract from a good story, and that everything we collectively think of as being a "classic" is merely a reflection of the times and should never be imitated. Our language is different now, and we expect books to contain less poetry and more action.
To curb my embarrassment, I started rewriting The Hero in 2005. I figured I would write a better beginning and a better ending, and edit the middle. So I wrote a pretty good beginning, and from that I realized that the whole story needed to be scrapped. So I deleted the rest of it and carried on from that rewritten beginning. At some point I got involved with other projects and ideas, and didn't return to The Hero until I learned of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2008. I decided to rededicate myself to continuing the rewrite. I took a look at the "new" beginning from 2005 and realized that I could do better than that, so I deleted everything I'd done previously and started over again.
I did not finish the manuscript in time to enter the contest, so I put it aside again for a few weeks, thinking that I had a whole year to complete it for next year's contest. 2009 came around and while it was closer, it still wasn't finished. In 2010, I thought I could plow through the story, and made some progress, but in the end I realized that rushing through the project would only result in a bad book again. I switched my goal to 2011 instead. I intended to dedicate every free moment, starting in September, to completing the book by the end of the year. Then a failed romance distracted me and rendered me unable to focus on my work. "2012 is it," I said to myself, "This is the year I complete the book." I took time off to go to Key West for several days to do a writing marathon, I dedicated certain evenings and weekend days to the task, and when the last two months before the competition came, I took two weeks off of work so that I could complete The Hero in time for the contest. Halfway through that effort, the contest closed early because the maximum number of entrants had been reached before the entry deadline.
I quit my job a few months later, and used my newly-acquired free time to finally complete the second edition of The Hero. The problem was, I had taken it in a different direction than I'd planned, and there were a lot of new characters that had to be introduced earlier, and some characters were just sketches and had to be made more distinctive. I spent the next three months doing a complete, word-by-word edit. I caught a lot of mistakes, a lot of loose ends, and added two minor characters near the end of the book. But it still wasn't good enough, so I spent another month going line by line, sometimes reading the book out loud to myself so that I could make sure that my language wasn't locked into a literary alternate reality.
With the 2013 contest just a few months away, I had time for one more edit. I took more time off of work at my new job and completed the edit, then I completed the cover design, and self-published it through Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing. I wrote an outstanding pitch and isolated the first 4700 words for the excerpt, which is how the contest is judged in the first two rounds. Then I waited until the contest opened and was among the first rush of people to submit a book.
And that's the story of how I rewrote my first novel. I've read through parts of it here and there since it was published in January 2013, and I still think it's good. It did everything I wanted it to do. The book was eliminated in the second round of judging in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award because the excerpt didn't satisfy one of the two judges assigned to me. I knew that would happen. The Hero doesn't have a traditional "hook" to keep readers interested in an otherwise mundane story. Instead, the hook is the whole story. It starts with great characters doing something interesting, and just keeps going forward.
Anyway, it's only $4 for the Kindle edition (or free through the Kindle Lending Library if you are an Amazon Prime member), and $12 for the trade paperback edition. That's my sales pitch. I hate marketing.