Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rewrites, Bloody Rewrites

Vacation is over. Time to get back to work. Well, sort of work. I want to "finish" my next book before I start looking around for a paying gig. I put finish in quotes because when is a book ever really finished. When it goes to press, I guess, since there ain't much you can do after that except cringe and groan, "Oh, geez, did I really write that?"

I like rewriting. Sort of. I'd better. I do a lot of it. As the old saying goes, 90% of writing is rewriting. I hate it when I hear stories about writers who never rewrite. Isaac Asimov claimed he never did rewrites. He didn't have to. His wife did them. So the story goes. Unfortunately, I have to do my own. Generally, it's not so bad. And if you believe that, I got a bridge you can buy, cheap.

Rewriting hurts. You often have to throw out your best writing, a phrase or sentence or paragraph, sometimes even whole chapters, that you've kept through half a dozen revisions (not to be confused with rewrites) simply because you like it. I have folders (well, computer folders) of snippets that I couldn’t bear to throw completely away. It's unlikely they'll ever get used, but it makes it easier to cut them if I know they are safe and sound somewhere, waiting patiently to see the light of day.

What’s the difference between revisions and rewrites? Do I really have to answer that? No. Good.

Another thing that makes rewriting interesting, in a Chinese curse kind of way, is a character who adamantly refuses to let him/herself be changed. Oh, sure, writing is craft, and characters are figments of the writer's fevered imagination, totally within the writer's control, but the old adage that they acquire minds of their own at some point is not altogether false. After a dozen drafts characters become as real as anyone you know, maybe realer (sorry, but this is a blog, after all). You know them better than you know yourself sometimes, and it's damned hard to change them, make them meaner or nicer or sexier or whatever. It's just not in their character.

I think, however, that the harder it is to change characters, even in small ways, the better the chance that when the dust jacket settles your characters are going to have more depth. They are less likely to be cardboard cutouts who sound like all the other characters in the story. So, here’s to characters who fight back.

Maybe I could get one of them to do my rewrites.

Montreal, Quebec

4 comments:

Tami said...

Michael, nice post. I hope you guys keep up with the blog. I just found it today and love it! I read the archives and have found all very interesting from a writer's standpoint.

I am an unpublished author, but am working to the end of my mystery(well, i'm about 60% of the way done) and can you believe it? I can't wait to get to the rewrite section. I've been writing it by the seat of my pants to this point. I have had a general direction of course, but don't know what's going to go on from one scene to the next until I write it. With the rewriting, I can't wait to see the scenes take form when I cut out all of the nonsense that I just rambled on about!

Like i said earlier, love the blog. I'm not a Canadian but sure love the country (doesn't hurt that I'm a HUGE hockey fan.) Hope you guys keep it up!

Charles benoit said...

Tami -
You not "unpublished". You're "Pre-published".

Tami said...

HA! Thanks Charles, that gave me a boost of confidence.

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