Sunday, July 19, 2009
So, at last, the first huge rewrite of my YA manuscript is done. Whew. What I ride! And yes it did involve sweat and tears but fortunately no blood – well, at least not mine.
Several months ago I sent the manuscript (MS) which had gone through several fairly major edits and has been a work in progress for a about three years, to the Cornerstones writing agency for an in-depth review. I’d had pretty good feedback from writing partners and friends but I knew the MS still needed work and I needed the right input to do that work.
What I wasn’t remotely prepared for were the 18 pages of criticism that came back – criticism that initially left me gutted and thoroughly daunted - and chucking not a few hissy fits. But I’d asked for the criticism and I’d paid some serious dosh for it, so it was in my best interests to take it on board. Let it not be said that being a writer doesn’t involve a pragmatic approach and a thick skin.
I sat with the criticism for a couple of months, letting it stew in my mind, wondering how the hell I was ever going to make the MS right – and eventually decided that instead of trying to “fix it”, I’d hold the original story in my mind and start from scratch.
In many ways it’s been like writing a new novel. I've done mountains of new research and the plot has been considerably revised – as was required. The narrative voice has changed substantially, as was required. The writing is tighter than before and I’ve addressed issues of repetition, too much introspection, clichés, telling not showing – and, I’ve killed about 36 000 words. Yep, the new version is much, much leaner.
The curious thing is that I’ve always said I hate editing and rewriting, but this was a blast – a process, which, although I found difficult at times, I knew was critical to my journey of becoming a better writer. Let it not be said that this business doesn’t involve some really hard work and lots of learning. To anyone who thinks they can “just” write a book – think again, very, very carefully – especially in today’s competitive and depressed market. It takes, I’m sure, more than just a little bit of madness to be a writer. I consider myself a case in point…
In the process of this rewrite though, I think the thing that delighted me the most was realizing just how passionate I am about writing. Like most writers, I guess, I have my up days and my down days but I find when I’m in the flow of a story, gripped by words, I soar. Actually, to be honest, I am away with the fairies and get totally blissed out. Ha, who needs sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll when you get such a high from scribbling. We won’t talk about the down days, ‘cos they’re just too miserable for words.
A new experience for me in the process of the rewrite was something I’ve often read about - the quest for the perfect word, the perfect sentence. It made me wonder, as I grappled in the search for the right strong nouns and strong verbs how on earth German writers, with their limited vocabulary, manage! Sheesh, am I glad to be writing in English!
Funny thing is, now that the first big rewrite is finished, how totally flat I feel. Postnatal syndrome of some sort, I suspect...
But what next? Well, I’ll leave the manuscript for a week or so and then I’ll go back and do a thorough edit, picking up any gremlins that may still be in there based on the initial feedback about my writing style. And then it will probably go back to Cornerstones for further input.
I'm also off to a writing conference in the UK in November and will be taking part in both a critique session with fellow writers and have signed up for a review with either an agent or an editor. And after that, well, we'll see.
Meanwhile, I’ve got another manuscript that needs a rewrite, a book cover to design for a competition, a synopsis and a blurb to write.
So yeah, more busy, which means continued erratic blogging! But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!