Monday, April 9, 2007

Going Thataway

Before my first manuscript was accepted, I had no idea how much REwriting was involved in the writing of a book. Oh, I'd go through it a couple of times, but that was it. Then I'd send it off and hope that someone would like it enough to buy it. Through the process of whipping my first sold manuscript into shape, my editor taught me what it meant to rewrite. And re-rewrite. And re-re-re-re...write. Nowadays I rewrite a manuscript a good 20-30 times before I send it to my (same) editor, and after she gets done making notes about it, I go through it another five or six times. (I used to tell her it was like having your coach make you do sit-ups and push-ups right after you'd run a marathon.) I actually don't mind the rewriting process. The original writing/creation of a story is what's fun for me, but I now understand that the dozens of rewrites I do is what make it fun for my readers. The problem with the "grueling rewrite" that I've mentioned in previous posts is that it's not just a rewrite. It's more a re-do. A write-over. In the 17 books I've done with my editor, this has never happened before. It's like I set out for a long run (like I did on Saturday), took a wrong turn somewhere (like I did on Saturday) and wound up somewhere I didn't mean to go (like I did on Saturday). Now, I'm not saying I ran by the same stinky skunk (like I did on Saturday), and I'm not saying that the place I wound up wasn't one I liked (it was, I thought, a perfectly fine place to be). But my editor didn't agree. She said that I'd taken her someplace she hadn't expected to go, and she was not particularly liking the view. (Or, perhaps, she thought it just plain stank.) It did not, I promise you, stink. But she sent me back to the beginning of the journey and said, This time, dear, try going thataway. And so, attempting to keep an open mind about the benefits of a new course, off I went again from page one. It was a long journey, a painful journey, with lots of steep hills and switchbacks and twist-your-ankle ground squirrel holes. But tonight I finally reached my destination, and I must say that this is a much better place to be. It's sunnier. With bubbling springs of hope. And honestly, there are no skunks anywhere. So tomorrow I'll go back to the beginning and start re-running this new path. It won't take me as long; the hills won't seem as steep, and by now I'm familiar with the terrain. And by the time I've done this trail twenty or thirty times, those 225 pages will be quick and smooth, and I know I'll be a stronger, better writer for having done it.


Erin Dealey said...

This is a great site. Love the jingle and the whole reading program!

You have affirmed my re-re-re-re-etc-writing process and the file box full of various drafts of my mg novel. (Good visual for school visits!) My writing group chuckles each time I say, "I'm almost there!" Non-writer friends ask patiently, "When is that novel coming out?" : ) The good news is every time I work on a longer ms, a picture book ms pops into my head! Talk about going in a direction you hadn't planned...

wendelin said...

Thank you, Erin!

Good for you, thinking ahead. I didn't even know there was such a thing as "school visits" when I started. I burned my 10 years' worth of reject letters, which I now wish I could show to kids.

But burning them felt so good!