THE TRAUMA OF TOTAL REWRITE

Since it’s a rare book or story that arrives complete, writers are familiar with revising. I’m used to expanding chapters that seem too thin and trimming others. But what I’m facing now feels like the ultimate challenge, for the changes in the manuscript of my book are amounting to a total overhaul.

It’s a book that an agent had enthusiastically accepted and then did a feeble job of promoting. I took the manuscript back and sent it to several other agents. Some requested copies of the first 10 – or 30 – pages, but the reaction was the usual publishing patter: “Not for us.”

Follow me now as I begin a journey that may be helpful to many of you. First of all, I regretted the fact that it’s invariably the “first” pages that are requested, since I didn’t think the book got to the most interesting part until chapter five. I’m now turning the book upside down, so to speak. I am beginning it with that fifth chapter. But this isn’t as simple as then proceeding in the same chronological order. For although the former first chapter is now chapter two, there are half a dozen episodes that need to be inserted in a different order.  But where? And how?

It isn’t merely a matter of just going back and forth between past and present, but of interweaving in a different pattern. So far, a few episodes have gracefully lent themselves to this process. However, my favorite chapter – one that friends and colleagues (not necessarily the same thing!) have labeled, “the best writing in the book” – stubbornly refuses to fit in. I even considered dissecting the eleven pages and sprinkling them like salt. But nothing works.

This morning I gathered strength and banished that beloved chapter. (Beware: when any of your writing becomes precious to you, it may be time to press the delete key.)

However, I have a secret consolation. I’m saving the pages in a separate file and when I finally finish the juggling act of this book, I will return to this chapter and hopefully convert it into a short story. Converting (not in a religious sense) may be what saves our sanity. For if a phrase or section doesn’t fit into the story it doesn’t have to be banished to the ash heap. It may well find life elsewhere, often in a more appropriate place.

This can involve characters, too. In parting with that chapter, I discovered it means exiting a man from my evolving manuscript, but hopefully I will revive him in another story.

I’m inspired by famed poet Colette Inez. She confided that when a phrase or line that she loves needs to be cut, she “reserves” it in a special drawer of her desk. She may – or may not – rescue it later for a different poem.

P.S. It won’t hurt if becoming adaptable turns into a scenario for other areas of life!

Comments welcome! Send to annehosansky.com

Books: ROLE PLAY and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – Available at CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.
WIDOW’S WALK – iUniverse.com

TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW- Xlibris.com