Last weekend my Daughter and I went to an Off Broadway show- “Christmas in Hell”. This musical was put on by the York Theater Company, and is currently in previews.  Here’s the thing about previews: everyone involved in the show looks critically at each performance and tried to figure out what tweaks will make the show better.

Before the Saturday evening performance, the artistic director stood on stage and welcomed us to the production. He made the easy joke about Christmas in Hell was being performed in the basement of a Lutheran Church and btw, Happy Hanukah.  And then he told us that the first act of the show had been changed since the last preview performance because they had done some reworking that morning to make the meaning and timeline more clear.

That morning.

That morning they moved scenes around, changed dialogue here and there, etc.

For a musical that had already had a few performances.

The Author changed his play.

As you can see, I’m still baffled by this because I get freaked out by editing.

I’m presently in the heavy editing phase of my book. And I’m presently in the land of not wanting to cut things that aren’t working. I’m firmly entrenched in letting scenes, no matter how inconsequential or wrong, stay on the page. I am having trouble divorcing myself from the words that I have written.

When I (substitute yourself if you fall into this category) put words on a page, these words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters become my baby. I have given birth to these things, and Mama wants to protect her baby at all costs.  How can my baby not be the prettiest thing in all the world?  I wrote it…

Ego.

We all need at least a semblance of an ego in order to survive. We have to have confidence in who we are and what we do. But…we can’t let that ego get the better of us.  We have to be able to distinguish the right path from the not so right path. And we have to know when and how to edit our work.

I’ve been having trouble with rewrites on my third chapter, which in my work is a necessary but odd chapter as I do a quasi flashback. The scenes in this chapter are pivotal to the plotline of the rest of the book. And I had one scene…. My writing group friend said as gently as possible that a certain scene just didn’t work.  And I know she is right. I know exactly what she is saying. But I still had trouble reworking it.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I just deleted the offending paragraphs and retooled it.  It’s still not perfect, but it’s better. It’s tighter. It’s a better use of words to describe the situation.

Part of me feels much better that I reworked and retooled.  And part of me thinks I let down my baby- that I didn’t think baby was good enough…

That’s the difference between writers who publish novels, and writers who have a manuscript in the draw- published authors know how to divorce themselves from the words on a page- to know that they are just words that can be replaced by other words.

I need to remember that editing doesn’t mean it’s not good.  Editing means you’re making something better.

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20 thoughts on “Rewrite…..Rewrite

  1. Oh yes, you have to always edit yourself mercilessly. Kill the darlings, as they say. I like editing. It makes me feel clear about why I want to say what I say– and that keeps my brain clicking, a good thing.

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  2. A great reminder! I have to get into the right frame of mind for editing because two major things are likely to happen: I either massacre everything and scrap it so bare I may as well start over or I rewrite and micro-tweak that I’m adding words but change the essence. It’s so rare for me to just go in with a clear conscious and edit “normally.” You’ll find your groove and it most likely will change from novel to novel. Good luck on the remainder of your editing!

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  3. Ironic you post this…I did a needed edit at 11 pm last night on a very long, rather emotional email written after a bad day. I was smart enough to save it with plans to send it today and then it beckoned again last night. While not perfect, I think the rewrite was less in your face and more a pure statement of my intent and message. I chopped a huge paragraph and went with a more subtle approach!

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      1. I agree and am glad that I made myself save it initially. Things had to be made clear and concise and apparently with recent morning developments some of what I discussed has been noted 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You are sooo right. I finished writing 2 of three novels in a series. Perfect. Happy. Then I had an epiphany a few weeks ago, and realized some parts were too nebulous. And another part didn’t make sense. I introduced an action that didn’t include a reaction. So off to rewrite hell I go. Good luck on your book!

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  5. Editing and revising were always a challenge until a conference I went to 18 months ago. Two different professionals in very different ways altered the way I approach it now and I’m so much better for it.
    My first book, which was basically like a child to me, needed some deep revision. I listened to the advice. Absorbed it for a day, and began slicing my beloved manuscript. I have said it was like performing surgery on a loved one, but I’m happy to report the patient (my book) survived and is much improved.

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  6. I have been asked by a close friend to edit a chapter of the book he has finished. He is pretty happy with the whole book except the first chapteron which he has spent far too long. He has a tendency to be “wordy” and has managed to cut the chapter from 45 to 26 pages, but he is still unhappy. I requested carte blanche and he has given it to me (knowing that I cannot waffle to save my life), I just hope we can still be friends afterwards (just joking, he has the thickest skin of anyone I know!!!).

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  7. This has been a huge struggle for me as well. I’ve done it, most of the time really hating it, but I’ve done it. I’m still not certain I like it because it changed things significantly, but I do know it needed to be done. It is so incredibly hard to do. So, I totally get where you are coming from.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yep. Been there, done that on multiple occasions. I think we writers do that naturally…it’s the first thing we feel when we are told by more than one critiquer that the scene doesn’t work or dialogue or whatever in our story. But once we actually totally digest what they said and suggested and we read over our scene, etc. it starts to make more sense. Then we change it up, and our story is tighter and stronger than before. That’s what makes feedback so valuable! I’ve learned to really like revising and editing my stories. My only problem is finding a point when the STOP doing so in the near future. lol

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