I have a draft open on my laptop right now: “Lucky Numbers v12 100p June4”. Tomorrow, the version 12 will be version13. One hundred pages will have been re-read and minute changes made, for the thirteenth time. If I can finish those hundred pages tomorrow it will be submitted, along with the synopsis (currently version 14) to an editor who requested it at the WRW retreat in May.
But my secret is, I didn’t write all of it. I’m putting the final rewrite on a manuscript I’ve been writing with a collaborator for two years. This is the most recent version of the tale, and it’s been a long and complex production.
How do you handle rewrites? Is putting the story down a breeze, and the rewriting a slog? Do you plot as you go, and then have to go back and patch up all the holes you left behind? Or is it all carefully planned, with minor time needed for revision? Do you struggle for the words, even though you love the craft?
I’ll out myself here: I rewrite too much, and it ends up being an excuse not to submit. I’ve done rewrites where entire pages were dropped or scenes reworked. My heroine in “Lake Effect” had a sister (briefly) suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Poor thing, she’s gone after one scene and six pages. Reworking the plot yet again, she was unnecessary.
In “Lucky Numbers” this evening, Joanna’s cat went from having silky fur to having almost none. After all, a life that’s trying to achieve perfection needs something that can never be perfect at all. It’s a minor detail, but it says a lot about what she’s been through.
I have a deadline for the “Lucky Numbers” project, though, and a collaborator who is waiting for me to perform. I can’t let them down. So, I will read every line of these 100 pages for detail. I will find the periods that were deleted by accident when a line was changed. The awkward phrasing will be reworked. A better word will be chosen.
And, though these current 100 pages has been through twelve versions, I’m reminding myself this weekend that I’ve had my hands on just six of them. We send the work back and forth, with strict rules for rewrites and comments and (most important) version control. Yes, I’m thrilled to have the final say in this manuscript. Terrified, too. Tomorrow, it goes out. I owe myself, and my partner, that much.
So, back to the question: how do you approach your rewriting? Are you eager to tackle the job? Is it an excuse not to submit? And how do you cope with someone else’s comments if they mark up your cherished words?