The Business of Rewriting
If I haven’t made this clear yet, novel #2 is requiring more thought and research than I’d planned.
That’s another way of saying the overwhelming problems of this first draft have left me with so many dead-ends that I now have one hell of a case of writer’s block. Also, I’ve gotten yet another rejection of novel #1 that pointed out some problems I think (I desperately hope) I can solve. So I’ve embarked on yet another rewrite of that poor, much-abused piece, which I’m kinda excited about actually. I feel like maybe, just maybe, I can actually FIX it.
Anyway, this led to a discussion with Spock (the hubby), who asked me the other day how the writing was going.
“It’s going,” I told him. “I’m in the throes of a major rewrite.”
“A new version?”
“Is it a new version of the book, or are you changing the current version?”
“I have about 20 versions. Of course it’s a new version.”
“Then it’s not a rewrite. It’s a Parallel Path.”
Oh sweet mother. More Spock-Speak.
“And what does that mean?” I asked.
“It’s something we say at work.”
“Of course it is.”
“It’s a business plan where two separate paths diverge from a common starting point. So there’s no one ‘final’ version of a document, but separate ‘current’ versions that can lead off in any direction you like without affecting the original.”
I stared at him. “So basically, you Save As.”
He stared at me. “Well, yeah.”
“So I can change a character from a girl to a guy. I can switch point of view from ‘I’ to ‘she’ on a whim.”
And part of me was thinking, well duh. That’s what a rewrite is. But then again, it’s kind of freeing to view it this way. Like the sky’s the limit. The road is full of green lights ahead. And this is all documented in a business plan.
I started to think about my rewrite, and how it’s comforting, even exciting to begin a new version and take it where I want it to go.
“It’s a form of risk reduction,” Spock continued. “Also called variants. They come from a development plan that was started back in…”
“That’s enough, Honey.”
I did some research on the subject. Turns out Anne Tyler
(oh, how I adore her) loves the revision process and rewrites her novels in longhand. D. H. Lawrence wrote his second drafts without even looking at the first ones. “Books aren’t written,” Michael Crichton says, “they’re rewritten.” Stephen King says you should first tell your story to yourself, and then tell it to a reader: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
Friends groan when I tell them I’m rewriting this book again. But, like Anne, I LOVE rewrites. How often do you get to change the past? To dress someone in a different pair of shoes, send people off to live in a different region, choose a different friend or spouse or co-worker or soulmate for them, to let them say something the way you wished they’d said it the first time, or to take back what they shouldn’t have said at all?
For me, rewrites rock. And the best part is, I’ve already done the hard stuff. The stress of worrying whether a real story is there—the very thing that gives me writer’s block—is over. All I have to do is make that story stronger, more vivid, more nuanced and wise.
Easier said than done, of course. And tomorrow I may be heading back to that first draft of novel #2 again.
But not today. Today, I’m taking the parallel path, reducing risk…uh, embracing my variant…? If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just Save As one more time.
Am I alone in this? Do you rewrite despite? Please–enlighten me with your own business plans.