Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Lesson in Rewriting

I read a manuscript a couple months ago that I liked a lot.  It had so much to recommend it and was just overflowing with vibrant images and intelligence.

I'm always reluctant to say much when someone turns their baby over to me.  What do they really want?  Do they want gushing enthusiasm or do they want a realistic assessment?.  After I had worked in television, we moved to California so I could attempt to get into the business there.  My landlord had written a novel.  It was amateurish and I tried to back away.  He pressed me for an analysis.  I gave him a choice--I could treat him like a hobbyist or I could treat him like a professional.  Boy, did he make the wrong choice.  He wanted me to treat him like a professional, so I did.  By the end of the month we were being asked to move.  Oops.

So after reading this manuscript, I treated the writer as an artist who should make her own choices but pointed to some things in general she could do.

Today she sent the revision back to me.  It was sure nothing I've ever done in all the years I've been writing. Wait, there may be one time but I can't remember it, oh, it's the Bad Apple book with a reservation.  She reimagined the book.  I don't think she saved one paragraph.

No, I've never rewritten a complete book, dumped it, rethought it and then rewrote it from scratch.  Bad Apple went through years of turning the idea around, with various perspectives, various main characters, but I had only written 50 pages when I went in another direction.

I am so impressed at what this woman did and how well she did it. 

The lesson to be learned is don't quit when you've gone the extra mile, keep going until you get it right.

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