Rewriting Is Hell

In the lab, I used to love to tweak a process or to grab a hint from nature and then go crashing through a repeat of the experiment.  While working on ibm.com, it was always fun to take a Web page, move the images around, change the headers and otherwise reinvent it to make it clearer and more attractive.  Why doesn’t this translate into rewriting fiction?

Why don’t I enjoy fleshing out a scene or finding and filling the gaps in the narration?  Why don’t I love to get the red pen out and rework those limp sentences and convoluted thoughts?  Why does editing feel like root canal?  If I can figure this out, I might be able to make big chunks of my day more pleasant or at least less tedious.

Thinking about the lab work, a big difference from rewiting is that all the action takes place in three dimensions.  All the senses are involved.  Rewriting prose, on the other hand, is very linear, start to finish, with a set course.  (As I think about this, there was a big difference with scripts when I used to plot them.  Moving card and Post-Its around and making timelines and maps was fun.  And, perhaps, it resembled lab work for me.)

When I think of my days working on the Web (early 90s), I can identify another difference.  Back then, I couldn’t get it wrong.  There were no standards and the examples were limited.  But when I write a short story, I inevitably am comparing myself to Poe, Harlan Ellison, Eudora Welty and dozens of others who mastered the craft.  Rewriting provides ongoing reminders of how I come up short.  I know I should turn that nasty voice in my head off, and I do a pretty good job of that while writing first drafts, but I’m not sure how you rewrite with the Critic bound and gagged in the corner of your frontal lobe.  The Critic is there for a reason, after all.

What does all this mean?  Well, for me, it provides some ideas on how to make rewriting more fun (and I’m convinced that will make the work itself better).   Less linear?  Maybe shuffle papers or draw some pictures.  I’ve already begun to use titles and subtitles in the rewriting process.  (I love to title things, so this is a spoonful of sugar for me.)  And perhaps I can keep the Critic at bay by breaking things down (creating specific assignments, like “describe the heroine”) or resorting to pencil and paper (when words are not in print, they are harder to compare to those that are).

Anyway, that’s a few ideas to try.  And now I’ve managed to avoid rewriting long enough.

Other doings:

The long awaited (by me) book is available for sale, and I have a copy.  I watched today as Innovation Passport went from number 3,500,000 million on Amazon down to 60,000 and then up to 240,000.  This is hugely distracting, doesn’t sell one extra book and stops the new books from being written.

This week also brought the good news that another short story has been accepted.  “Phase Six” will be in the October issue of Hypersonic Tales.

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6 responses to “Rewriting Is Hell

  1. Mega congrats on the book, Peter!

  2. Bought myself a copy via Amazon. Don’t pay too much attention to the initial stats numbers, they will be all over the place. When Alex Wright published Glut his numbers didn’t settle down to reality for a couple of months (the sales numbers were accurate, but the ranking info gets thrown off once you get out of the top-100 mass market)

    • Obviously, I love to be distracted (especially when faced with rewriting), but thanks for the inside scoop. And thanks so much for buying Innovation Passport. Hope you like it.

  3. Peter, congratulations on the having the book about the FoaK program reaching official publication!

    To demonstrate how convoluted social media has become … I picked up your status message on LinkedIn, which led me to this blog entry. I’ve created a Note in Google Reader that gets picked up by Friendfeed … at http://friendfeed.com/daviding/b42144cc/innovation-passport-ibm-first-of-kind-foak … which should show up on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daviding … except that Twitter appears to be unreliable. (I’ve noticed that Friendfeed has also translated the link to the IBM Press page … but it still works).

    The publication of the book deserves a headline, rather than a footnote at the bottom of this blog!

    • Wow, David! Thanks for spreading the word. There has been a surge in readership to this blog. (Surge=4)
      It is interesting to follow the twists and turns of social media. And it gets twistier with search and keywords. When I mentioned MacSpeech, my numbers went through the roof. (The roof=20)
      I was tempted to proclaim the book in a headline here, but my assumption is that this blog’s audience is mostly fiction folks. Similarly, I haven’t mentioned my fiction sales in LinkedIn. Perhaps I’m being too strict. It will get even more confusing when my collaboration with my wife gets published under our joint pseudonym.
      Peter

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