Hi folks! It’s me, Misty! No, not finished with the rewrite of Kestrel’s Dance yet, but a good ways along and the end in sight, so it’s time to come back to Magical Words. I’ve missed you!
Today I wanted to tell you about the five stages of rewrites. When a writer is told she has to rewrite the novel she struggled and slaved over for months (or sometimes years), she tends to go through a series of recognizable behaviors. If you are a writer (or if you’re lucky enough to have one in the house), you’ll eventually have to experience these behaviors. So to help you out, I’ve decided to lay them out for you, so you’ll know what you’re feeling when it’s your turn.
Moments or days after notice of the necessary rewrite has been received, the writer will put on her best feather boa and drink lime daiquiris while she reminds everyone that no, the editor didn’t really want a rewrite, this was all a mistake. “My book is perfect,” she says, “and obviously my editor meant to send that email to Nora Roberts. I’ll just wait a few days, until she realizes her mistake. She’ll send roses.” This never happens, of course, because editors never make mistakes. And I’m not saying that just because my editor might be looking.
Once it becomes clear that an apology email isn’t coming, not to mention roses, and the writer’s feather boa is drooping, the writer may rage around the house, howling to the sky that there was nothing at all wrong with that book, it was fine the way it was, and who does that editor think she is anyway, telling me I have to rewrite a single word of my wonderful….uh, sorry. What I meant to say is that the writer will, at first, not want to accept that anything she wrote is anything but perfect. This stage is temporary, fortunately for the writer’s poor husband, who, if he’s smart, will duck when things start flying through the air and nod his head at whatever the writer says, no matter how crazy it sounds. And bring home chocolate on a very regular basis. Daily is good.
The writer, sated on a diet of chocolate and adrenaline, has reached a quieter place, from which she begins asking God/the universe/the Flying Spaghetti Monster for help. “I’ll finish this rewrite if you’ll just make this book debut on the NYT bestseller list. I’m not asking for the #1 spot. I’m not greedy. Somewhere in the top 12 will do fine. Do we have a deal?”
Of course it never works like that, but somehow demanding that the Almighty take a hand in the madness that is rewriting a novel makes it seem less crazy.
This stage occurs when the writer comes to the realization that God/the universe/the Flying Spaghetti Monster is far too busy seeing to world hunger and the birth of shiny new stars in galaxies eleventy-three light years away to bother with where one little writer’s book places on any list at all. If God/the universe/His Noodliness can’t help, that leaves all the work to the writer. But we got into this game so we could get rich and spend our weekends at science fiction conventions or partying in Monaco with J K Rowling, not so we could *gulp* work hard. “What’s the point?” the writer moans. “No one will read the new version. My editor (who never makes mistakes) will realize how terrible I am and delete my email from her contact list. I might as well quit now, and start a new career as a circus trapeze dancer.” The writer’s husband, who at this point should have finished repairing the dry wall that suffered during the Anger stage, would be wise to make a stop at the Godiva store every couple of days.
At last, the writer comes to understand that the rewrite must happen. And suddenly, things become clear. The story begins to fall into place, words start appearing on the pages and maybe the editor hasn’t lost the writer’s email address after all. The writer, her eyes no longer clouded by self-doubt and worry, will notice that the story she wrote the first time is actually getting better with every word she adds (or takes away) and all those suggestions the editor offered were pretty good after all. The NYT bestseller list still isn’t a given, but it’s looking a little more possible with every changed paragraph. The rewrite is no longer the enemy, but an exciting adventure.
It couldn’t hurt for the husband to keep that chocolate coming, just in case.