I am currently mired in re-writes.
We tend to talk a lot about writing, but not so much about re-writing. Re-writing is what happens after writing and before editing, and then generally after editing and before another round of editing, and so on, and forth.
I probably spend about three times as much time on re-writing as I do on ordinary writing, if I’m completely honest. I daren’t even look at that short story I scribbled out on Halloween, because I already know how much of it I want to re-write: to flesh out the characters, to add another would-be-tormented animal (a mouse, I think), to give a little more insight into the day to day life of the protagonist, and the workings of his creepy little mind.
I know that if once I started re-writing it, it would be another three months before I could finally admit that it was done.
I will re-write this blog at least three times before I’m finished.
And I won’t be entirely happy with it then.
If you’re wondering where The Wolf-Finder General is: it’s in the middle of a round of re-writes.
Yes, I know I said it would be out some time in 2022, but I said that in 2021, in the first flush of publishing The Vicar Man, when everything seemed easy, and I could breathe again at last, and I somehow managed to forget just how many wretched re-writes it had taken me to get that far.
The way it works is this:
First: I write the book.
This is the easy part.
And by easy I mean that I spend a year or so beating my head against the walls, trying to make sense of the images that are so very clear in my mind but somehow turn to jumbled nonsense the minute they notice a piece of writing software.
You know: easy.
Second: having written the book, I immediately make the first set of re-writes.
I read through the rough version of the book, filling in the square brackets of [Word Goes Here], altering any lines that I don’t think quite work, and altering or inserting any bits of text that need to be changed so that the whole thing can run smoothly.
If I’ve been sensible, I may even have written a list to remind myself which parts need altering or adding.
I am almost never sensible.
Nevertheless, this part is generally quite fun: I get to read my book, and more importantly, I get to read my book while not sick to the back teeth with reading my book (that part will come.
Third: having re-written the book, I send it off to friends, beta readers, and sensitivity readers if applicable, and ask them to read it too.
I then spend a short while breathing into a paper bag in anticipation of a score of rage-filled emails excoriating me for having dared to offend their delicate eyes with such addle-witted nonsense (this hasn’t happened. Yet.)
Eventually, they get back to me with their thoughts.
Fourth: having taken in the thoughts of everyone who has seen the book so far, I make another round of rewrites. I incorporate my readers' thoughts where appropriate; tightening up anything that feels sloppy, expanding on anything that feels too sparse, and generally trying to please everyone.
Which is impossible.
Fifth, having rewritten huge swathes of text, potentially inserting entire chapters and subplots I hadn’t thought I needed, and generally laid waste to the ordered battalions of my original text, I stop re-writing for a while and begin to edit.
Fortunately that is another subject entirely and deserves its own blog post, so I needn’t write about it now. Which is good, because I am not in the mood to make anybody cry today.
Sixth, having edited once, I go through and re-write anything that now needs re-writing.
And then I edit the book again.
Finally, after who knows how many rounds of re-writes and edits, and edits and re-writes, the book is taken gently from my nerveless, shaking fingers, and I am pushed in the direction of the internet to publish the thing.
And thus, eventually, there is a book.