Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mining for gold

Picture for a moment the following scenario: a writer sitting on a sofa, laptop in their lap, furiously typing away at the keys as outside a cool wind blows against the windows. The backspace key is hit a couple of times, then a paragraph is highlighted and moved to a different part of the manuscript. A few swipes of the scrolling ball and the writer once more begins to type with purpose and determination.


A few days later. The manuscript feels “off”, lurching about drunkenly. There’s something wrong with the heroine. She’s supposed to be a strong Alpha-female who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Now, after a little hanky panky with our hero, she’s turned into a blithering, soft, tearful…well, girl. It’s a wonder the other characters in the story didn’t throw her off the ship.


So not where I wanted to go but yet I still need to show the softer side of the heroine because if I don’t, she’s just gonna be some frigid biatch who no one will care if she lives or dies at the end of the book. What to do? Where’d I get off track? And the biggest question of all, how to fix it, can it be fixed and do I want to? Better to deal with it now than to try to catch it once the book’s finished and I’ll have an even bigger mess.

I set the book aside for a couple of days. Started a new novella just for fun and to clear out the cobwebs. Talked and chatted with a couple of people about the book’s woes. Stared at my computer screen…

…and when the words didn’t rearrange themselves, I sat down and buckled in. It was time for revisions.

That’s right. The bane of every writer’s existence. The rewrite. But here’s the thing. As much as I hate the prospect of revisions, the best story is always found in them. The rewrite and polishing. The looking at the words and ruthlessly cutting away, pruning down the story until I can find the real meat beneath.

That’s where the real book lies. Underneath all the crap I’ve already written.

And deep down, I already knew that’s what was wrong. Too emotional. Too mushy. Too not my character. I was in denial—yeah, another mortal enemy of a writer’s life and she brought a friend, insecurity—just as deadly to a career (but much tougher to banish). Luckily, someone came along, gave me a swift kick in the pants, and told me to keep going.

I wrangled with that offending chapter, knocked it on its ear and I’ll be darned if it’s not so much better. That’s why we need revisions. To make the book stronger. To make it flow better. To inject it with enough believability until it makes sense.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite what you previously thought was a fantastic scene. If it doesn’t fit and doesn’t work, pitch it. Move on. Move up.

Now, onto the next couple of chapters. Darn it.

Happy writing!


Annie Nicholas said...

Most of my best chapters came from rewrites. LOL I always have to redo my endings. In each book I always manage to neuter my hero at the end. (Not literally) Then I gotta go back and make him a man again. Think I have an issue? LOL

Annie Nicholas said...

Oh wait...
I once wrote an ending and let the bad guy win just to satisfy myself. lol
The book has a HEA but I still have that chapter on my comp.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks Annie. I don't do endings well and am never satisfied. Rarely to I keep an original ending I've written.

Rebecca Royce said...

Sandi, You do too do endings well. Hey everyone out there, don't believe her. You also do incredible rewrites. Great blog today.

Sandra Sookoo said...

LOL Funny. It's true though. I think my pirate story and the Halloween story were the only ones I kept the original endings with. :-)

But thanks for the compliment :-)

Chiron said...

I'm in the rewrite phase now. I've done the editing phase and that was a breeze compared to this! *rueful grin*

I know the story is in there. I just have to be patient, put the fingers to the keyboard and bring it out.

Thanks for the reminder that we all go through it!

--Chiron O'Keefe
The Write Soul:

Antonia said...

Too right Sandi. Its nice to have that person to give you the swift kick when you are doubting yourself.

Tonya Kappes said...

I am participating in NaNo this year and I am not used to just writing crap and keep going. It has been a big challenge for me and I am fighting myself everyday. I guess when it's all over and I can get around to working on the real story I've created during NaNo, there might be 10k words that will be kept!
Why to go Sandi on finding your heroine's true self.

Ari Thatcher said...

I've decided what I want my super power to be, not that anyone is asking. I want the ability to make the words rearrange themselves into something worthy of a Pulitzer, or at least a contract!

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Great blog, Sandi!

I'm currently rewriting a story I started and nearly completed two years ago. I had like 3 chapters left on it, was already at 75K on it, when I started to see how the ending would be flat. The problem? The direction the ms took. Too mushy, melodramatic and that soapy hoopla. There was also a deeper thread of abuse in it, and that's also what veered me off track. Topic got way too serious for this kind of story.

So scraping it all and rewriting with a whole new slant. Only the character names and location are the same! I know what you mean about a good scene though. In my original one, there was a rape scene and I recall the aftermath when the heroine remembers that. I think it was the most powerful, emotional scene I ever wrote, but it won't get to come out now because the slant is changing.

You're right - we shouldn't be afraid of rewrites. But no one said they aren't a pain!



Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Sandi,
Great post and thanks for the reminder that every writer goes though the agony--not just me. LOL
Cutting scenes and fluffy details is like cutting myself after spending hours getting those words down. But for the good of the story it has to be done. Just gald I'm not the only one feeling like I sawed off my arm.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks everyone for coming by. I'm glad to be in good company :-)