Two weeks ago I turned in the second rewrite of my book – now definitively entitled DIE FOR ME. My editors acknowledged its receipt and said they would get back to me with any further tweaks or changes. At which point I changed my name and moved to Rio.
Just kidding. I am so extremely thankful for the success my book has had…before even being published. (It has already been bought in seven languages, which is so incredible to me it feels unreal.) I am profoundly grateful that the advance check allowed me to quit my day-job and plunge into the career I always dreamed of. The way things have worked out make me feel like I’m leading a charmed life. (Quick, give me some wood to knock on.) But EVEN SO…by the end of the last rewrite, I felt like I was dog-paddling through lava in an angst-ridden purgatory. And this is why:
Writing comes easily to me (thanks partially to the daily practice this blog gave me for years). Creating also is a bit of a cinch – whether designing a dragon birthday cake for my daughter or thinking up a new monster for my book. I just kind of zone out and go into the little place in my head where everything comes together, or I walk a few miles until the next scene or solution appears like a vision bursting fully-formed out of the vineyards.
But concentrating, focusing, problem-solving – especially when it’s a problem posed by someone coming from a different mental direction than my right brain is used to – that does not come naturally to me. Or easily. It’s like pulling teeth. And I’m talking impacted wisdom teeth, with roots down to the jawbone.
I have no clue how brain activity works for rewrites specifically, but I assume I’m being forced to use my left brain. It’s like I am being asked to work one of those paragraph-long math problems about what mileage a car gets if it drives from Alabama to Kentucky on 3.5 tanks of gas. I can’t do them. I read them and my brain starts feeling fuzzy. And then I try to concentrate and all of the numbers go flying off the page and hide, giggling evilly at me from a dark corner of the room.
But it’s just writing! (I tell myself.) It’s just words. I know words…I love them. I love to play with them and manipulate them and I get the biggest thrill when I read a word that has been placed perfectly – in exactly the right sentence and context. It’s like looking at an Old Master painting. Gets my heart beating and my head spinning.
And yet, when you look more closely, that word is just an assemblage of curves and lines appearing on a two-dimensional surface. Just like how that perfect shadow under the chin of a Botticelli Madonna is in actuality just a brushstroke of paint containing a larger quantity of black pigment than that of her skin color.
And when you have looked at a sentence twenty times, really thinking about each word and its order in the sentence and whether it’s the best word to use…especially when the editor is saying that the line is “a bit flat”, words start breaking up into their lowest common denominators – little squiggles on a screen. Just try to rewrite the sentence when you’ve gotten to that point. And then how about 362 pages of words? And do it when you know there are a lot of people waiting to see what you come up with.
For the amount of work my brain did during the last two rewrites (because I already did three versions under my own steam before publishers ever saw the manuscript) I could have written another couple of books. But would they have been good books? Would they have been as good as I hope this one has become?
I doubt it. I trust my editors, even though they cut a lot of parts that I loved – mainly descriptions that slowed down the story line. They called that process “cutting the little lovelies”. They forced me to think in ways that didn’t come naturally, and therefore deeper. I basically got an intensive three-month masters-level writing course from a couple of pros, and got paid for it. I don’t regret it for a second, and it would be unconscionably idiotic of me to complain. But now I know what really goes into this dream-job. I never thought it would be easy. And I was right.
After a bit of a hard slog, and a good case of shaken confidence, I am ready to go back to creating. We’re off to the States for a couple of weeks, when I will finally meet my agent and editors in real life. Once we return it’s onwards and upwards with Book #2.