Posted by Leann Sweeney
This is a continuation from last week's post, mainly because I am currently working through the editorial stages a writer experiences before publication. I never heard a thing about this process before I signed my first contract. No one told me. No one talked about it. The "writer's mistake" I spoke of last week gives me great insight into how my brain works, but my editor seems to have far greater insight. Don't know if that's a good thing. Kind of scary, really. She sends back my manuscript with the most amazing comments on how to improve the book. Anyway, today's topic? Rewriting—something I absolutely love. And no, I am not kidding.
I'd heard about rewriting when I was learning my craft, how important it was, but not until I accepted that I was not writing "timeless prose" and needed serious remedial work and a generous dose of humility concerning my work product, did I embrace rewriting. It was a turning point for me. Once I understood that I had control of the story, that it did not control me, I was free to change the words. Yes, you can make things better, Leann. Wow. Really?
Now that you understand why rewriting is my favorite part of writing, rewriting on a deadline is even more fun. Yes, you read that correctly. I usually only get a week to rewrite an 85,000 word manuscript and if I had more time, I wouldn't enjoy it as much. I get one shot to fix things, one stab at adding elements that make the book more cohesive, once chance to make sure the theme is there, even if only subtlety there. Reading quickly through a manuscript, for me, is the only way to accomplish this. This is the point where I step away, read like a reader, not a writer. A book takes months, even a year to write, but the rewriting happens in my case in about a week. Every word becomes important—and thank God I learned that lesson from my short story days.
I feel unbelievable clarity and calm during the rewriting process. I may lack confidence during the novel's unfolding—okay I feel horribly insecure and wonder every day if I can actually finish—but the rewriting is like a party where I get to play. Maybe this is how it is for you if you are a writer. Or what it feels like to get a Mulligan in golf. A do-over. This isn't about changing words or sentences. This is about so much more. It's about getting things right. If you haven't already, embraced the process. You might discover how great this feels.
P.S. Line editing is the next step on the road to holding a book in your hands and I won't be blogging about that. Not fun. Not fun at all.