Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Rewrites

Unforgivably Bad Writing, Part 3:  She rode astride him like a bucking bronco in the rodeo of the flesh.  Jan Stacy, Bodysmasher, Zebra Press

Unforgivably Bad Writing, Part 4: With a sigh, she took the Tater Tots and the bread out of the oven and set them out on the warm stove. Kevin O’Brien, Vicious

Toward the end of summer in the Washington, DC area, the skies cloud up daily and once or twice a week thunderstorms of frightening intensity knock down trees and send entire neighborhoods into steamy darkness. I’ve been lucky so far this year—there’s only been one blackout lasting more than three hours. Several brownouts have occurred though, and each time the television set in my basement mysteriously turns itself on and scares the hell out of me. The disembodied squeaks and groans used to be those of cartoon characters on the Disney Channel, but recently a shift has occurred. My TV turns itself on to one of the Spanish-language stations and the plaintive basement voices are accompanied by tremulous guitars and Moog synthesizers.

Summers are good times for re-writing, and I’ve been doing just that for the past few weeks. Under scrutiny is a book I wrote years ago titled Wasted Miracles. My agent at the time said he couldn’t sell it, so I serialized it on this site. Now I’ve decided that with some rewriting, it’ll be worth resubmitting.

I both loathe and love rewrites.  On the one hand, I’d like to think I’m vastly talented and my stuff needs no editing. On the other hand, I know the former statement is sheer b.s. Books are made during the rewrite process.

This is the book’s fourth rewrite. It started out more than a decade ago as a first-person mystery novel, at 572 pages grossly over-written and under-thought. My agent told me first-person was the wrong format, so (rewrite number one) I edited myself out of the book, created an alter ego and protagonist and pared it down to 450 pages. Then I realized that the plotting was heavy and sometimes dull, and some of the characters exhibited tendencies and shortcomings I criticize in the works of others. That was rewrite number two.

Serializing it was rewrite number three.

I let the book sit for a while and took it out again three months ago when I was going through writer’s block on another project.  I reread. Hmmm. Not too shabby… A little polish here and there and some technological updating might make this into a viable seller.

So now I’m on rewrite number four, and it’s mostly small stuff. I’m taking out a whole lot of words ending in ly and ious. I’m reading it aloud and what doesn’t sound good gets excised. I’m eliminating pages of back-story that may have helped me create characters but add little to plot development.  I am attempting to streamline the dialogues and rev up the action.

So we’ll see where all this leads. I’m hoping to eliminate myself from the Unforgivably Bad Writing examples above. Stay tuned.

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