|Lucy V Hay|
So this week I’ve been rewriting my novel.
Well, I *say* rewriting my novel, what I’ve actually been doing is this:
• Reading and re-reading the manuscript
• Pacing up and down a lot
• Drinking coffee
• Baiting other writers on Twitter
• Doing other work
• Phoning my husband at work and leaving him long bleating voicemails about how this book will NEVER be finished
• Emailing writer friends and sorting out THEIR problems instead
• Freaking out on Facebook
So in other words, I’ve not really got any rewriting done at all.
Why is rewriting so hard? Well, unhelpfully that can depend on the project. For me, this time around, it’s very specific. It’s a problem of tone. As this novel is a companion to another which was very gritty and realistic, this one is simply too … OTT, ie. it’s not based in reality “enough”. (I already knew this before I got the feedback that confirmed it, which made it all the more difficult somehow – GRRR!).
Dealing with writers in my other job as a script editor however, I would say writers’ main issues with rewriting are actually psychological and cover the following:
1) “I’m not good enough”.
You need confidence to be a writer and no one’s going to validate you; you have to believe in yourself. And if you don’t? You find yourself paralysed with indecision or worse, fear. Ergo no writing gets done. So believe in yourself. Do whatever it takes. Only you can know what that is.
2) “I’m so confused.”
Lots is made of getting something down on paper – anything - and then “just editing/rewriting it later”. And if you have problems finishing (ooh Matron), then this is a good tactic. However, if your central concept does not work or you’re not sure of your motivations for writing that piece in the first place, then you can really flounder later on. Sometimes, doing whatever it takes and putting in the time at FOUNDATION level can mean less rewriting. Honest guv!
3) “It’s up to others to validate me”.
Unless you’re a hobby writer, there comes a point when a work has to go out into the big bad world. Others will see it and rate it – and the savvy writer knows that these are only OPINIONS, not facts. So what if someone says you’re a crap writer? But equally, who cares if someone says you’re a GOOD writer! Seriously! The key here is – DOES THE STORY WORK? That’s what you must know. Don’t let yourself off the hook worrying if it’s “good” or not.
4) I don’t want to “kill my darlings”.
Look, I get it. You’ve spent ages over this writing and made all kinds of sacrifices both personal and financial to get it done. As a result, if you rip out *this scene/ chapter/character and/or return to page 1, you feel like all that time is wasted. But guess what: it’s NOT wasted if it means you get to where the story *should* be. Holding on to flawed pages will never cut it. Doing whatever it takes WILL (are you beginning to see a theme here?).
5) Writer as serial killer: killing darlings TOO MUCH.
Over the years, many of my Bang2writers have fallen in love with the simple ACT of writing and sabotage themselves another way: they rewrite their projects literally TO DEATH. As a result, again: they never finish. Throw those flawed pages away; move on to the good stuff – and RECOGNISE IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. That’s a skill itself. And guess what you have to do to learn it: whatever it … right! See you get it.
So, don’t let these errant thoughts get in the way of your rewriting … Because, as I’ve found out this week, there’s plenty of other ways to derail you, so why add to the list?? Good luck!
Lucy V Hay is a script editor, novelist and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is author of the book, WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS (Creative Essentials) and the novels, THE DECISION: ELIZABETH’S STORY and THE DECISION: JASMINE’S STORY, both out in 2014.
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