Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rewrite

I’ve finally finished the first draft of my next book, Crying Blood, and have begun the rewrite.  We’ve all heard many times that writing is rewriting, and anyone who’s ever scribbled a page knows that’s true.  At least I’ve never met a literary Mozart, whose first draft is so perfect that it doesn’t need any alteration.  In fact, most authors I know, even very well known and accomplished authors, think of their first drafts as something too embarrassing to be seen by anyone.  It’s the rewriting that makes the book.  If I may repeat something I’ve said here before - and never let it be said that I missed an opportunity to repeat myself - you have to have that block of marble before you can carve out a statue of David.

Rewriting is the fun part, as well.  The first draft is eked out of you like bone marrow, but with the rewrites, you have something to play with, to refine, to remodel, to put makeup on and make beautiful.  I’ve just begun rereading and adjusting, making sure that the beginning matches the end.  After the first draft, my beginnings never do match the end, for somewhere in the middle of the writing, I changed my mind about this character, or this action, or this story line.  And I didn’t waste time by going back to the beginning and fixing it to fit my new vision. No, no, that way lies madness.  I can get (and have gotten) caught up in an endless merry-go-round of fixes and never reach the end. I just kept going until the book was done, with every confidence that I could repair all the inconsistencies when I was done.

As I reread the story, it’s interesting to see how it all turned out, to remember what I originally had in mind and see how the tale changed as I moved through it. Questions come up as I put all my ducks in a row, and here is one that I always struggle with: how much explanation is too much?

For instance, in one scene, there is what looks like a coincidence.  Coincidences do happen in life, but you’ve got to be very careful about putting one in a mystery story, lest the action seem too contrived.  And yet, when I set about to explain how this came about, I didn’t like the way it sounded.  Too much exposition and not enough action. 

Do other of you writers out there struggle to find a balance between making it real and making it exciting, or romantic, or terrifying, or however you want it to come out?

I’ve read and loved many books that elide over illogical plot points, some best-sellers, too. As long as I like the story, I don’t really demand existential reality in my reading.  Yet I don’t like holes in the plot that are big enough to drive a truck through.  Have I done that, or shall I let my coincidence stand and devil take the hindmost?  I’ll have to let my pre-readers tell me, for I can no longer tell.


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