I’ve spent a lot of time over the last eight months revising my first book. I’m on the sixth draft and it’s been through a lot of changes. I’ve had many, many people read it and I’ve taken a lot of their comments and rewritten sentences, paragraphs, even chapters. But through all that, I never quite understood when people said they were “rewriting”. I always felt like I was just revising.
That’s because I was.
And now, after workshopping the book up at Write by the Lake in Madison, I’m rewriting. And I finally understand the difference. And it’s terrifying.
I’ve always felt like there was some fundamental weakness with the plot that I couldn’t quite figure out. At the workshop the instructor and other participants finally helped me see what it was: my protagonist was way too passive at the beginning. Things get better about a third of the way in, but before that it’s pretty weak.
I came up with what I think is a good idea for how to fix it – for how to make her more active and more like she is throughout the rest of the book. But it basically means rewriting the entire first third of the book. And probably major changes to the rest as well, because once you change one thing it’s a huge domino effect.
This process is terrifying on multiple levels.
First there’s the general fear that this is going to take forever and I’ll never get it done and I’ll miss the boat on whatever trends are going on in publishing right now and I’ll never get it published and, well, you get the idea. It’s a lot of work, and that’s scary. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. I always knew this process might take awhile.
It’s hard, though, because I’ve had so many people tell me they loved the book. I thought maybe it was close to being ready to go. And now I feel like I’m back to square one. That’s pretty difficult to swallow.
And not only that, but it’s scary: am I messing up my book more than I’m helping it? How do I know I’m doing the right thing? The right thing for my book? How do I know these changes will really make it better?? I’m making the book more commercial, but does that mean I’m also making it more, well, crappy?
Related to the general fear about how much work it will be, is the fact that I’m having a baby in 5 weeks, give or take a few weeks. Let’s be realistic: I’m not going to be able to do much good work on the book for at least several months after I have the baby. And maybe more. I’ll be home full-time again – no breaks like I get now when Addie goes to school. My dream was to be querying the book when I had the baby. And now that dream is dead. I need to finish the rewriting, then go through the revisions process again, get beta readers, take comments and incorporate them, etc, etc, etc. How will I ever do this??
But I guess I don’t have much choice. If this is what the book really needs, then this is what I have to do. So here I go: Rewriting.
Wish me luck.