Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Rewrites

“You know when you rewrite something it just gets better and better.” Ed Wood.

In the movie “Ed Wood” Ed Wood said that line, it’s not clear if the real life Ed Wood ever said those lines or if he ever rewrote one of his movies.

Most of my literary heroes never did rewrites, famous names like Ed Wood, Isaac Asimov and so on. Unfortunately I’m not sure I want to have a real life them.

Ed Wood became famous for pushing the line of bad so far it became a masterpiece and he never made money from his films.

Asimov didn’t receive a dime from his “Foundation” series until he became famous and Doubleday bought the rights to it and re-released it, he couldn’t get a major publishing house to look at it and ended up going with an early author mill for his first four and now most famous books. The only reason he became great was his shear volume. He averaged 14 books a year as well as a short story and science article every month. That’s over 1.5 million words a year. I write a lot but that’s way beyond what I could dream of doing.

So, I won’t follow in their footsteps and will take the job of rewriting seriously. Unfortunately I am really bad at it.

With my latest novel, “The Pizza Diaries” I wrote it out and had the perfect 65,000-word novel. It was so perfect I couldn’t see how it could be improved. I sent out a query letter to thirty agents and was promptly ignored. I couldn’t figure out how they couldn’t love my masterpiece so I had a few people read it and got their feedback.

They all told me the first chapter was the worst or second worst chapter in the book. “But it makes the book have a nice circle with the beginning and the end being in the same spot.” My mind screamed. Then I wondered if that was important at all to the book. I realized it wasn’t.

So I wrote a new first Chapter that sets the tone for the whole book.

The second thing they told me was I did a horrible job with the female lead, which they felt really took away from the book as her romance with Brian was the most important plot in the book. “No it’s not,” My mind screamed again, “She’s just a side character.” Then I read it over again and I had several chapters of them alone, so it was the most important part of the book even if I didn’t mean it to be.

So I rewrote most of those Chapters and deleted a few and put in totally new chapters, to lessen the amount of time she is in the book, but give her character more depth when she’s there.

A few of the comments were gender specific, guys sympathized with Brian’s reaction to the Vampires and girls couldn’t figure out what he was on about. So I punched that chapter up and now it’s tied for my favorite chapter in the book.

So now I have an 85,000-word novel that is absolutely perfect that I will send out to a different batch of readers, so they are not influenced by the original copy, and hopefully get some totally unexpected feedback about where I tried to go one direction but the story makes it look like its doing something else.

So for a 65,000-word novel I’ve just done a little over 30,000-words in rewrites. Hopefully I’ll get better and need to do fewer rewrites on my future novels.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


Stephanie Barr said...

Rewriting can really bite. Here's hoping you found perfection.

Project Savior said...