One quick note, Y’all. On Tuesday the 16th of February, we’ll have a guest blogger, Kim Harrison. Hope you’ll join us that day for a special post!
In the life of a writer, little is more boring or more necessary than the first rewrites. When I was writing mystery/thrillers, the first rewrite was between pages 100 and 150. It was there that the strands of the mystery had begun to become clear, when suspects found a face, and when the tension had started to loosen, not tighten. If I were a screenwriter, I suppose it might be the second scene of Act Two. For me it was the boring section of writing a book, but it also was the setup of the final action scene, (still so far away.) Everything that had happened to date had to fit together like the knots in a knitted scarf.
Yeah, that’s a girly analogy. And I don’t knit, so it’s foreign to me, but it is also apt. I’ve watched my mom knit and sometimes she will tear out row after row of finished scarf because she missed one stitch way back somewhere and it showed when she stopped to look at her work.
The second rewrite was between pages 300 and 325. There the threads had to come together again, at the novel’s tightest, most tense section, had to be set up for the final scene. All the characters had to be in the right place for it to work. If I’d left a character in the wrong setting, or injured, when he needed to be elsewhere, I had to fix that, even if it meant tearing out and rewriting sections of the novel. If we go back to the scarf analogy, mom would be planning for the final rows and thinking about how she might finish the scarf, maybe with a fringe or jewels or rosettes.
I knew I was trapped in the methods I had built around my writing, but it was comfortable. It had become my MO (modus operandi). It was all I knew. This writing schedule was a format for me, something I adhered to unconsciously, but it was also a routine that confined my creative energies, like a wild bird, caged.
I kept to these page-count rewrites for every book I wrote in the mystery/thriller genre, and found several mystery-writer friends who had the same general rewrite schedule.
When I write a screenplay, my brain works very differently, almost a right brain – left brain thing. But the format of rewrites is the same as when I write M/Ts.
When I started writing fantasy, with the Rogue Mage oks, my creative self found a freedom that had been missing when writing in the M/T genre. It was like having been that wild bird, caught and caged, then suddenly set free. Now, I found that I did my first rewrite after page 200 (almost anywhere after page 200!) and the second rewrite only when I was done. I figured it was the way my brain worked with fantasy and that I’d get used to the schedule change. I did. And I found the freedom exhilarating!
Then came the Jane Yellowrock series. And I was writing a mystery/thriller/fantasy… And M/T/F. Yes, Jane is a rogue-vamp killer, in an alternate reality that includes nonhuman creatures that fall under the category of *things that go bump in the night,* but she also has to make sure she takes out the right character, the right bad-guy. She has to solve a mystery to do it.
My MO automatically went back to the M/T rewrite schedule. The format of a mystery, fit the books I was writing. I had somehow re-caged myself. But this time I didn’t care. The writing format worked for the story I was writing and that was the most important thing of all. And I thought it would stay that way.
Big surprise. The WIP had sooo many strands that I’ve done extra rewrites, and even been forced back to the ancient (for me) bubble outline (or grape outline) to make it come together. I got so lost in the story, that I had to go back to my roots to find my way forward. It worked. Finally. It took extra weeks to do it, but the strands finally came together. I have a sca—a novel.
I know some of you write more than one genre. Does your brain work differently with each genre? Does the rewrite process change? Do the strands pull together differently?
Yeah, I just finished the final *major* hardcopy rewrite of the WIP, Mercy Blade, (inputting changes now) and it goes to my editor on Friday. At which point she will send me her rewrite letter before the next round of rewrites.
How’d you guess?