Monday, August 31, 2009

Of Rewrites and Prompts

For anyone who's been participating in the Storytellers monthly short-story club, I realized today that people might be looking for a prompt. It is Monday, eh?

Fear not. It's on my calendar for next Monday, because I wanted to do it on the first Monday of the month. So look for it then. If you don't know what this is all about, the rules are simple: I post a prompt, you write a short story of 1,000 words or less, and I post it. Everyone comments. Anybody can write.

In the meantime, I'm down to the nub on a rewrite I began earlier this summer. I've actually rewritten the book two complete times since I started three months ago. And I'm very close now -- I expect I'll send it off to my agent next week, or maybe this week if lightning strikes and all my existing clients give me a magical week off. Then we'll wait to hear from the Editor who asked for the rewrite in the first place.

I'm approaching the end of this rewrite with a complicated and conflicted set of emotions. It's very strange, and I can't figure out what it all means. On the one hand, I'm very proud of this book. It has some very cool characters and some really cool adventures (and, yes, I'm pimping my own novel). The thematic structure feels solid, and there are some moments I just love.

But ... I'm not entirely sure I like the book. Is that weird? It changed a lot, based on the rewrite letter. In some ways, it became a different story about a different kid, and I kind of miss the original kid. He was close to me. Perhaps most alarming of all, I don't feel as emotionally invested as I have in the past. Yes, I worked like a dog, and no, I didn't take any shortcuts. But I'm not losing sleep over this. It's just a book.

This feeling isn't new to me—I've written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, maybe thousands. Probably thousands. These are just products to me. I write for food. I always think it's kinda cute when an editor calls up, nervous, and says, "Um, we need a few changes, is that OK?" Ha ha. Is that OK? You tell me what you need. I'll do it. Simple as that.

But fiction has always occupied a different space for me. It's always been so much closer, so much harder to produce and therefore so much more fraught with emotion and ego and insecurity, like an exposed nerve. Not this time. And it's seriously freaking me out, if I'm being honest.

So you tell me ... how do you end rewrites? Skidding across the finish line, exhilarated, sweating, swearing, heart pounding like a new parent? Or more like the guy you hired to fix your roof, pleased but also looking forward to heading home and washing the job off? And what does it all mean?


Mark Terry said...

I know what you mean about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I too have written hundreds, possibly thousands, of NF articles, etc., and by-and-large, treat them as a product. That isn't to mean I want editors to screw them up (it happens), or that I'm not proud of them (I am, some more than others), but I invest my skill and my energy in them, not my guts and my soul, like I do in fiction.

Kath Calarco said...

Coming from the virginal side of publication, I can't relate. BUT, I can tell you how I handle typing "The End," which usually draws a tear. I go out and buy something new, usually a pair of kick-ass shoes.

I do develop a close bond with my characters and imagine feeling a little violated if an editor asked me to change one. But who knows? If it sells the story, that's just more shoes for me. :-)

Natasha Fondren said...

Outside of the awful copyeditor-inserting-two-incorrect-commas-per-sentence-without-telling-me-before-publishing-it incident that made me look like a complete moron, I tend to be mostly laid back. Most changes are no skin off my back. I do have a line somewhere.

I always end my stories hating them. The thought of reading it one more time makes me nauseous and requires large amounts of caffeine. I never want to see it again, I never want to think of it again, and I never want to write it again. The feeling usually fades by the time I get to the next sequel in the series. (Since I've just been writing two series for the past three or four years.)

LurkerMonkey said...


I can think of a few instances (one in particular) in which I was furious at an editor, but for the most part, NF just is what it is.

LurkerMonkey said...


That's funny ... about the shoes. I used to reward myself by going out to dinner when I finished something, but I stopped doing that when I started rewriting everything 47 times. We'd live as restaurants. As for the editor part of it, you get used to it ... and hopefully, your editors improve the book overall.

LurkerMonkey said...


I'm wondering if it has something to do with having read this story so many times ... I'm heartily sick of it. Maybe with time it'll look different.