The Joy of Rewriting

And So I Come to the Final Day I’m procrastinating. My book – The Shoestring Proposal (working title – The Shoestring Club is book 1, this is Shoestring book 2) - is one chapter away from completion. Yes, it’s only the first draft and a fairly loose one at that. Half way through writing it I changed all kinds of things: the name of one character, another character’s motivation, the age of a child. So it’s all up for grabs in the second draft.

After writing the book solidly since Thursday 3rd February (I keep a writing diary with daily output including a word count – it’s a way of staying motivated and it’s really interesting to read back over the entries too) I know exactly what I want the book to be, what I’m trying to say on the pages, how I want the reader to feel while reading it. I just have to re-write it now and craft it into the best novel it can be, the closest I can get to my vision of the book.

I love the rewrite stage. I love tinkering with scenes, making them stronger, cutting away the fat, leaving the good, lean stuff, the muscle if you like. Tightening the dialogue, making the characters BIGGER. Making sure each person’s dialogue is distinctive. It’s an exciting stage of the writing process and one that isn’t (as far as I know) taught in schools, which is a shame. The re-writing habit should start early.

A few weeks ago I was corresponding with a writer who wants desperately to be published. I asked her how long it took her to write her book. Nineteen days she said. I was impressed and slightly taken aback. She must have been going at it full tilt.

‘And the re-writes?’ I asked.

She seemed puzzled for a second. ‘The editing you mean?’ she said. ‘Oh, they’ll do that at the publishing house. I don’t have time for all that.’

I was about to explain how you might only get one shot to impress an editor or an agent etc etc, but I kept my mouth shut. She’s clearly a very busy woman!

Next week is the West Cork Literary Festival and I’m speaking to young readers about the Ask Amy Green books and also hosting a workshop, again for young readers. After that, my holiday proper begins. Two weeks to read, eat, sail, swim and read. Did I mention the reading? Monday’s post is all about the books I’m taking with me. After that, in August, I’m back on Ask Amy Green duty, writing book 5. I can’t wait! It’s all about a young Irish ballerina and is set in Dublin and Budapest. See – my job is so much fun!

Then, when I’ve written the first draft, it’s back to The Shoestring Proposal. I’ll read over the manuscript in hard copy, make copious notes and start rewriting, by hand in notebooks and also directly onto my laptop (shell pink Sony in case anyone’s interested). It won’t go near my agent or editor until I’ve done at least three rewrites. Then – probably half way through this process – my Ask Amy Green editorial notes will wing their way back to me and I’ll get stuck in to them quickly as that book is out next year. Shoestring 2 won’t be published until 2013. Phew!

But look at me now, still procrastinating. I’m due at the page but the honest truth is I don’t want to finish this book. I’ve had so much fun writing it. Typing The End means saying goodbye to Pandora and Jules and Iris and Bird and all the characters I’ve had so much fun writing about over the last 2 years. God knows what I’ll be like saying goodbye to Amy and Clover after 5 years! But such is the writing life. And it’s a good one.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

PS Look out for the shiny new website in September – it’s only beautiful! PPS My book is now finished - yes! *sniff, sniff*