Sep 15, 2004

Rewrite Frustrations

I've just got to say . . . right now, the idea of being attached to my writing is a HUGE JOKE to me. I must have written and discarded about 20,000 words for the new version of my novel, and I'm barely halfway through this monstrous rewrite. I mean, I must have written a novella's worth of words that will never see the light of day. I'm not bitter about that part of it. I don't mind losing crap that isn't working for the story as a whole. What bothers me is that I have no idea if I'm really making improvements, or just making a mess. For all I know, some of those discarded scenes would have been perfect. For all I know, I'm wasting a lot of effort on a new version that isn't any better than the old. And I feel certain that I will be writing another 20,000 words within the next two weeks, thinking that they're marvelous, only to have my hopes crushed when I reach a point and realize it isn't working. It's like repeatedly having my hopes crushed. Rewriting is a form of purgatory or something.

And I'll add that my "Scrap" file for this novel -- that is, the total amount of permanently discarded scenes -- is up to 84,000 words. That is literally a novel's worth of crap. The only reason I save it is for sentimental value. I can't stand the idea of throwing all that work away, even though no one will ever read it, and it's completely useless, and it's just taking up computer memory. I'll probably delete it when my novel is published. The next step after this rewrite is truly terrifying . . . I'll have to try to interest an agent or publisher. Let my query letter not suck! Let me be able to pitch this story without stammering!

So that's my month. I'm halfway through the rewrite, and I no longer find it remotely enjoyable. I yearn to write something new--I dream about it--but if I start a new project now, I know I'll never finish this one. I have vowed to myself to never undertake a rewrite like this again; not unless I'm offered money for it. This is hellish. I hate it.

Now you may be wondering why I'm doing it in the first place. I wonder that myself, sometimes. But here's the answer, as far as I can ascertain within the rotting mush that my brain has become: I'm not satisfied with the current/old version of my novel. I never was satisfied with it, even when I wrote the first draft. I feel absolute confidence that the story is wonderful, and I love the characters, but this novel had some major birthing pains, and I think it's a deformed baby. So now I'm trying to hammer it into a more acceptable shape. (Please excuse the crude analogy; I told you my brain is mush.) I'm willing to go to these great lengths and suffer to improve it, because I know this story is worth reading, and worth publication, and quite possibly bestseller material. I know I sound like an overproud author--or a mother talking about her child--but please remember that I have been known to shelve other novels rather than spend the effort to rewrite them. This one is worth the effort. I've already poured three years into it, on and off, and I will continue to pour effort into it until it sees publication . . . even then, I'll still promote it. And I can tell you that the current/old version wasn't BAD. It had a good reaction from test readers. A magazine even offered to publish it as a serial. But the reaction wasn't as great as I was hoping for, and like I said, it's a deformed baby. I think it can sell to a major publisher, with some more hammering. But wow, my arm is getting tired.