Laurie Halse Anderson (SPEAK, CHAINS, WINTERGIRLS) tweeted something the other day that made me spew coffee. In part, she said, “Am busy eviscerating the middle part of my book. Ink & guts are everywhere.”
Since I was slicing out whole scenes of my manuscript, I felt a bit bloody myself.
For a long time, I knew the beginning of my story was weak, didn’t capture the protagonist’s voice as it shows up later. I’d also been told by some crit partners that the love interest was coming across as a creep. I tweaked. I revised. I subtracted a bit here, added a touch there.
None of it worked.
The unworkable scenes had to go. *cut* *slash* *burn*
I let my imagination run and a new idea popped up. It added depth to the characters and the world-building.
Some months ago, I had an amazing crit and brainstorming session with Kathleen Duey (SKIN HUNGER, SACRED SCARS). One piece of advice she gave me was to start over with a blank page. I thought I did by changing the protagonist’s POV from third to first, getting under her skin more and by altering some structural elements of the manuscript. But I still tried to save a lot of the original scenes. That was a mistake. It undermined the voice by dragging in elements from earlier versions.
So now I’m in the daunting position of a true rewrite, not tweaking. Amazingly, I’m looking forward to it, because the voice is stronger, the story is more alive and compelling. Already more than fifty pages in and feeling really good about what’s happening.
I found some other great comments on rewrite:
“I've found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” – Don Roff (ZOMBIES: A RECORD OF THE YEAR OF INFECTION)
“There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them.” – Elie Wiesel (NIGHT)
“Books aren’t written--they’re rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”—Michael Crichton (JURASSIC PARK)
“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” – Kelly Barnhill (THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK)