Hubby asked me the other night if, once I sold a book, I could write two or three a year like Other Writers. Not sure which Other Writers he meant, but I was kind of surprised at the question. I don't think he was trying to insult me, but he knows how long I've been working on this particular book. And yeah, it's ridiculous how much time I've spent rewriting the d*mn thing. So I understand his concern.
The answer, I told him, is yes. And I said it without hesitation because I know it's true. Yes, I am capable of writing fast. And writing well, I believe, while doing it. So why the wheel spinning this time? Because for the longest time it was just me and WIP. No critique partner, no beta reader, no editor or agent to tell me the idea wasn't viable the way I'd written it. Me, writing like a maniac, then stepping back and saying, “Uhhhhhh, hmm….”
It's taken me time to figure out what works and what doesn't. There's a lot that goes into a manuscript, much more than pretty sentences that read perfectly. I've read a lot of beautiful contest entries that go nowhere. Going nowhere is the greatest sin committed by the unpublished writer, I think. Because the published writer has an editor saying, “Hey, that lovely scene where your heroine drives to work thinking about how she got to this place in her life and how she'll never find love and how her last boyfriend was a jerk? It's got to go because it's not the real beginning of the story. The story starts on page 15 when the secret agent bursts into her office.”
My process has improved with the right critique partner. Tanya keeps me on track. She's the one who told me my heroine was doing a lot of reacting and not a lot of acting. And then, when I asked, she told me how to fix it. She gave me suggestions that made sense. I didn't use any of them, because I rewrote everything, but I used the gist, the core, of what she told me. My heroine doesn't react anymore. She's not passive, and she doesn't let the hero take control. I think Tanya will be proud when I send her those pages again. 🙂
Yes, I've rewritten this same book 3 times now. I mean throwing out hundreds of pages and rewriting. I have a discarded scenes file that's longer than the book is. Scary, huh? But I believe this is right. I believe I'm making the right choices this time. I believe the final product will be good. This time is the last time. This version goes out the door. I'll take editorial suggestions gratefully, in full knowledge that I CAN fix what needs to be fixed. But this is the final rewrite on my own. The next time is for an editor.
And I haven't completely been spinning my wheels. I've written and submitted two entries to the Harlequin contest, and I'm working on a Red Sage novella. I also have the second book in my special ops series planned and the first pages written. With every word, I get better. Every word, whether discarded or polished to a shine, propels me forward and makes me a better writer.
Yeah, honey, I can write more than one book a year. I'm getting faster and better all the time. My choices are better. My instincts sharpen with usage. My wheels have found purchase in the muck. I'm moving forward.
Any lessons you've learned lately? Can you write more than one book a year? How many rewrites are enough for you?
The first cut is the deepest, darlin’ I cut everything the editor didn’t like from my book before I started the revising. That was everything from Chapter 5 on. My 56k book became 18.5k in two keystrokes. I needed to go lie down at that point.
But, the book is already better!
Now, if only I knew what to do next…
Ay-yi-yi! I do suppose I shouldn’t prevaricate so much about finishing my revisions. I’ve made changes that pretty much require the trashing of about 80 pages, and I’ve been kind of mopey about that. One big change reverberates throughout the book and requires some rethinking of the climax.
Hugs on that chop. It’s a big one, but you have a roadmap from the editor. That’s a golden letter, baby. 🙂
This week I’m attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Writers Week. If anyone is in the area, this is an annual event, it brings it great people and it is free to the public.
I posted short daily notes on it at my blog (www.deebuckingham.blogspot.com)
You ask what lessons I’ve learned lately? I have learned LOTS of lessons this week.
I learned that I’m not a poet, I like the journalism/non-fiction writers, I can sit through a two-hour lecture (this was a biggie). I accept that fact that I am too old to discuss “killing” the pure spirit of something by naming it. When I go to the grocery store I need to put chicken on the list, to name it, label it, bring it home, and kill it in boiling water or searing oil, but naming it is the first step.
Ah, I’m getting to be such a cyncic.
Hey, Dee! Hope your trip to Hawaii was good. 🙂 The writers’ week event sounds like fun — as well as useful. 🙂 Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned!
>>My choices are better.
This is SUCH a telling sentence! Spot on.
I dont KNOW how many rewrites I can do. I’m still rewriting my first manuscript–I think I’m on version 3.5 or 4.2…not sure. There are things about both versions I like but I haven’t quite decided if it’s a case of words that fit or loving my words. It’s marinating while I finish another book.
Most important lesson learned after sitting around trying to write for two weeks? When in doubt, switch POV
*does the I coulda had a V-8 headhit*
I saw 2 telling comments:
My choices are better. and I’m moving forward.
Both show significant growth, IMO.
I know I can write more than one book a year. Of course, I’m talking category length, but that’s what I’m targeting. As for rewrites, I wrote my first manuscript in 2003. I played with it some in the interim, but really re-wrote it significantly in 2006 due to a full request. Now I’ve gotten a letter requesting revisions and have just finished those.
Mind you, I’ve written other books in-between, but I just couldn’t give up on that 1st book because I loved the characters and wanted to do a 3-bk series with the heroine’s siblings. Okay, maybe my stubbornness had a factor in there too. 😉 Book 2 is now in the polishing stage and I’ve started Book 3.
Somewhere in that process, I felt the same as you do – that I was making better choices and moving forward with my writing. Onward and upward!
Oh, I love what you’ve both said!
Amie, too true: when in doubt, switch POV. How many times have I gotten unstuck doing this? I don’t know, but I know I still resist when I’ve just got it fixed in my head that things should be a certain way. But you gotta take the plunge, right? I think our instincts are better than we sometimes give them credit for. I’ll second guess myself all day, then finally give in and realize that my internal editor was right. Ha!
Carol, I think it’s AWESOME you are rewriting that first mss for an editor. My first is buried. Deep. Never to come out again, LOL.
I guess part of the reason I keep working on this one is because I’ve got the series in mind too. And I have the next two books planned, though they could stand alone. But I love the idea of a progression through this world of mine. 🙂