As I’m puttering along with this first novel of mine, I have discovered the desire to rewrite.
One reason for this is that I’ve been listening to the audio version of Lawrence Block’s instructive Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, which is full of great teaching and humorous writing. I’ll get a notion from Mr. Block and feel I simply must apply it right away, before I lose the idea or forget how I wanted to implement it.
I also just like rewriting. For me, there’s a certain pleasure in juggling the puzzle pieces of narrative and language until they fall together in a pleasing manner. (Not that I’m doing that here, as you can probably tell.) This is probably because 1) I’m a pathological perfectionist in matters I care about 2) I’m coming back to fiction after a long hiatus and need to polish the rust off everything I write 3) I like sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen, sipping Arizona Diet Green Tea and snacking on wasabi-dusted almonds.
This is just dandy now, while I’m only about fifty pages in, but as the piece gets longer it’s going to get harder to do this sort of immediate rework. I’ll end up doing so much rewriting I’ll never make any progress on the story. At the same, I hate to set some kind of wrongheaded precedent in the early pages, follow through with it and then have to slog through fixing the whole damn thing when the first draft is done, or make an abrupt change to some story element partway through and then have to make the former part match up with the latter, again after the first draft is done. (Man, oh man, was that sentence long enough? You think?)
Keeping in mind I get to do whatever I want in the course of this enterprise, I have devised a plan. It even has phases, which as a sort of sometime development guy I am certain are bound to enhance it.
Phase 1: I’m going to slow down and spend part of my regular sessions writing new material and part revising. I’ll devote entire sessions to writing or revising, or mix them during the same session as the mood and situation strike me. I’ll keep this up until the manuscript is too long to support this method. At least then I’ll have a first part that’s somewhat fixed, which will give me less to repair at the end… in theory.
Phase 2: Once Phase 1 peters out, I’ll just move ahead and make myself notes in the text, probably cross-referenced to an appendix I’ve already got appended to the document’s end (that’s another post), for necessary details. This will probably look something like this:
Basil pushed open the double doors, only to find Penelope waiting for him, gun in hand. [set up gun in previous action]
The bit in the brackets will be hyperlinked to the appendix entry. I got the brackets idea from some science fiction writer, I think, who wrote an essay about avoiding writer’s block this way… or something like that. It was a long time ago. If you know who it was, let me know and I’ll give him or her credit in this space, which will no doubt lift his or her career to heights previously undreamed of.
I don’t know if this is going to work. There’s at least an even chance I’ll find myself in rewriting muck sometime during this process no matter what I do. That’s okay, though–as long as the green tea and almonds hold out.
Please let me know if you have better ideas! Not high bar, I’m thinking.
Oh, and as a reward (consequence?) of reading today’s post, I’ve attached what Winnie the Pooh would call a “small smackerel” of the work in progress. It’s as raw as Christoper Robin’s nose in February, not even proofread, but you’re welcome to check it out: smackerel 11-23-11.