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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Saw The Light With Re-Writes!

The last half of 2008 was spent in burnout. Then at the start of 2009, I started easing back into the saddle, easing myself back into the novel process by spending some time doing research and finding answers to some niggling questions I’d had from the first draft.

Then this month, on March 1st, I started the re-write process. My first ever novel. My first ever re-write. And I don’t think you’ll really be able to grasp what I’m going to try to describe to you unless you’ve “been there, done that.” Of course maybe most people who have written a novel haven’t been there done that. Maybe they write better first drafts then I do. I don’t know.

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers back in 2008. Or was it 2007? Anyway, it has been well worth it and I’ve learned a lot. One of the things I’ve heard several people over and over say is how much they love the re-write process. I would listen to these people say that and think “Gee whiz these people must be NUTS! How can you possibly love the re-write process? The first draft was torture and the second draft is probably going to be even more torture!”

But I’ve seen the light.

Do I think the re-write process contains elements of torture? You bet. It takes a long time. It can be tedious. It hurts my head. And sometimes I think I’ll never have a finished manuscript to submit.

But amidst all that pain and headache, I am seeing something exciting happening. I’m learning. I’m growing. And this complex story I took on is getting clearer layer by layer, write by re-write. To be honest, I don’t know how many re-writes its going to take to get all the layers folded in and precisely arranged into a heart grabbing story. But I surely am enjoying the journey of discovery this is turning out to be.

When I wrote my first draft I was spewing words on paper – getting general concepts down, not taking time for details and, unfortunately, not really capturing the character or even plot and setting nuances. That first draft was like throwing up a hasty framework for a house. It was the bare bones. To be honest, I don’t know if, even a 100 years down the road, I’ll be able to capture all those nuances in a first draft. I highly doubt it.

But the re-write is allowing me to begin to do that now and it excites me. New ideas are clicking. I’m filling plot and character holes.

But at the same time it scares the pants off me because for every plot or character hole I fill up, I find that there’s a great chasm that needs to be filled somewhere else in the story.

But those huge holes – those chasms – it’s like a gauntlet being tossed down in front of me. A challenge. My story seems to say “See what you can do with that, chickie!” And I sit back, smile, and say – you’re on!

I’m enjoying this re-write. I didn’t think it was possible, but I am. I love it because writing a novel is like solving a jigsaw puzzle with thousand of pieces – many of which look a lot alike. I keep having to add and remove things. Put it first in this chapter, then that one. Change chapter lengths and numbering. The list of possibilities is endless.

Of course all of this is tempered by the fact that I continue to put extreme pressure on myself just to get the manuscript done. But one can only move so fast when they work outside the home and have health issues to boot. And I don’t want to cheat myself out of this time of discovery that I’m having with my re-write. Probably the first of several it will go through before I even submit it.

So now when someone says they love to re-write, I can just smile and say “I know the feeling.”

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