Mark Terry

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Joy (?) of Rewriting

June 12, 2007
Elizabeth Bear has a lovely, insightful blog post about rewriting today.

This is the part where it stops being about art or inspiration or even a Puritan work ethic, and becomes about nothing more than sheer bloodymindedness.This is, in short, what we fondly* refer to as the glamour.And for me, this is the hardest part of the process. It's not any fun. It's not revelatory. There's no rush of creation, no euphoria, no dance of discovery. There is only the exhaustive working over and over of every damned sentence and line and idea, trying to make sure they make sense, trying to make sure they fit.

Yeah. I agree. More or less. Sometimes rewriting is actually easier. The work's all been done and all I'm doing is polishing. Sometimes, there's something wrong and you just can't figure out what it is. Also, as Bear notes, by the time your editors swing through for their 2 cents, you're not only bored with the damned thing, you're pretty much sick of it, as well.

Mark Terry


Blogger Allison Brennan said...

I love rewriting. And I'm not joking. I write very fast, getting the story out there, letting the characters lead. Then I revise, making sure everything is there that needs to be, everything that doesn't need to be there is cut, and in the end, I'm always happier.

The only part I really, really detest are the copyedits. THAT feels like work.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, that's a pain. I recently got a copy of my upcoming novel, The Serpent's Kiss, and they want me to re-read it looking for any errors or changes we might want to make should we go to reprints. This is really, really hard. For one, although it's the first time I get to actually read it as a book, by this time I'm pretty tired of the whole thing and just want to move on. And copyediting takes a level of concentration that can be a little daunting.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I'm with you on this. By the time it comes to rewrite I don't want to see the damn story again, or even think about it. Luckily our rewrites often involved adding bits and scenes, which isn't so bad because it's new material.

But this quote from Elizabeth Bear struck me:

"There is only the exhaustive working over and over of every damned sentence and line and idea, trying to make sure they make sense, trying to make sure they fit."

I just can't get my head around that. I write very slowly. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. I guess when I'm writing I work "over and over every damned sentence and line and idea" but on rewrite? I can't conceive of that. I wouldn't have the time. Maybe if I were able to write full time I I'd have the time but I doubt it. And wouldn't that just kill the writing, if you really, truly, worked over and over every line?

12:06 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

She was really talking about some novels she's had to gut and rework and--knock wood--I've avoided that to-date. The Serpent's Kiss had a big rewrite conceptually, after my agent read it, but in that case she had been able to see what was already there and make me go back and dig it up. It didn't turn out to be that big a rewrite in terms of actually changes.

Generally speaking, by the time I turn it into my agent and editors, the novel's in pretty good shape, at least so far.

1:17 PM  
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