Oh, It’s Tuesday: The Third Year of World War II [Rewriting Again]

So yesterday I began my third rewrite. ¬†And in many ways, it feels like I’m reporting to you from the trenches of the third year of the U.S.’s involvement in World War II. Allow me to explain this metaphor :

Your rough draft feels a lot like 1942. You’re sick of reading books that are not the one unspooling in your head. In many ways, you feel like the books that aren’t your books are the enemy. They’ve attacked your Pearl Harbor, and now your all gung-ho to kick some butt. Full of piss and vinegar, you write your rough draft.

However, your first rewrite, the second draft or year of your war, isn’t so pretty. You lose a lot of friends. A lot of friends. Favorite sections and characters. They just disappear. And then the few remaining friends you have start turning on you, doing things you don’t want them to do, betraying your original vision at every turn. You start to feel worn down and crazy. You wonder why you’ve decided to enter this fray. You write love letters to your old life, the one you had before you started this novel, wondering if you can get back together with it, like you never left it for war in the first place. Your old life writes you a Dear John, and alas, you’re stuck with nothing but a war you’re not sure you can win. But you’re the one who enlisted, you have to finish out your service. You set your jaw and just keep writing until you’re done with this terrible draft in which so much blood was shed for the good of your story.

Then if you’re me, which in the case of this metaphor, you kind of have to be, you rewrite a skim-through draft. This is the loading up trucks or filing paperwork or passing out food of drafts. Basically, you skim through the rewrite, make sure there aren’t huge grammatical errors or missing paragraphs or stuff that just doesn’t make sense. Compared to your first rewrite, this rewrite is a breeze. You’re simply making it readable for your beta readers and your manuscript editor. After this draft you get some much needed R&R while other folks deal with your story.

During your R&R your beta readers, whom you’ve chosen, b/c they are your exact target audience, get back to you. They love it. While this comes as no surprise, since they were chosen specifically because they are the sort of people who would love this book, their praise fills your heart with pride for your country/story. You wonder why you thought writing it was so difficult. While vacationing on some tropical island, the war really doesn’t seem that bad. Yes, you lost several friends along the way, but you can barely remember their faces now. In fact you’re starting to feel guilty because you’re sitting around drinking frou-frou drinks, while your story awaits its next rewrite.

But then, you get your rewrite notes back from your manuscript editor, who you’re paying well to find anything that might be wrong with your story, so that you can either fix it, or decide it doesn’t need fixing. It’s important to make this distinction. That’s what the third rewrite is all about, getting honest feedback and deciding what to do with it. More characters have to die. Entire chapters get blown to smithereens. You don’t care as much while committing these atrocities as you did when you first entered this war. In many ways your pure love for your story has taken on a grim, hard quality, and right now, you’re just doing what you have to do to get the job done. That’s why it feels like I’m blogging from our third year of World War II. Eventually I will send this next novel off to a copy editor. A few more skirmishes later, I’ll be done and ready to come home to my publisher — unless she decides she doesn’t want me any longer. That’s always a possibility. And in that case you’ll be seeing an Aftermath of War post — because really I just haven’t stretched this metaphor far enough.

Anyway, that’s what up with me. I’m wrastling with this story, and coming up with strategies to make this war end with a win. We’ll see…

featured image credit: Dunechaser