Pictured above: "The Good Life" by Tracy K. Smith. I joined Instagram. Please follow me..
Last week, I started the humbling process of submitting my 90,000 word YA novel to literary agents. I researched query letters, read books and blogs like this one
and this one
. Times have changed from the days of snail mail when I last submitted a book. I discovered, nowadays, they only want the first ten pages, preferably via email. The last time I submitted a chapter book they wanted the whole thing, and email wasn't an option.
More important, after I clipped the first ten pp. from the whole 350 or so pp MS. I discovered my first ten pages are not
my first ten pages. I mean, existentially, they are. Yes, they might be numbered 1-10 in the lower, right-hand corner as per formatting rules, but the story begins almost ten pages past those
ten pages. My first ten pages are actually pp. 10-20. I was going to have to rewrite my story. Again.
What surprised me was the happiness that came with this epiphany, while you can feel the dread and fatigue dripping off the blog post from about a year ago where I discuss the moment when I figured out I needed my very first rewrite, which, at the end of the day, considering I added 50,000 words, was more of a write than a "re" anything.
Writing a whole, long MS with steady beats versus writing a pithy, cute short like this
one with one sweet beat shaping it has been a lengthy learning process. It hasn't come natural, and when I read about writers like du Maurier who wrote the pearly, pure prose pages of Rebecca
in six months I want to wring her neck very gothically. First
rewrite: it was a dark and stormy night I figured out my original novel was kind of...well, okay, extremely...cliched. About a year and a half ago, I decided to rewrite the whole thing from an entirely different character's POV, a new character I had to get to know and flesh out and configure a different arc for. It transformed the entire piece, and it was painful, hard, laborious work, most of which I accomplished while I was pregnant and strangely unwilling to leave the house, a Miss Sophie Canetang with her computer, a nesting goose.
This time the story is there, the musculature of character, the fine bones of plot, but the lines of it need to be laid bare under a lot of fat.
After I decided to write this blog piece, I tried to hunt up a Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote about how he can't stop rewriting his pieces and eventually just has to let go. I think it's appropriate that what I found instead were quotes about enjoying the rewriting process and the necessity of the rewriting process, because I'm not there yet to that place Marquez is discussing. I know it, because I've been to that place with some of my shorter pieces. Editors have even kindly worked with me on rewrites like this
prose poem I rewrote three times. In this case, I know it's not self-consciousness or fear that's sending me back to page one: my MS is just not in shape. If you're finding the prospect of a rewrite as grueling as I first did, here are a bunch of inspiring quotes on rewriting that I hope hearten you along your way. And, after all, remember, we're doing this because we love it!More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.
-- John Irving There is no great writing, only great rewriting.
-- Justice BrandeisThe process of rewriting is enjoyable, because you're not in that existential panic when you don't have a novel at all.
-- Rose Tremain
What do you think? Do you dread rewriting? Do you enjoy it? Do you improve your work or do you feel as if you might be destroying that ephemeral je ne sais quoi
? Let me know in the comments below! And please feel free to share any writing tips with me.