It’s a thrilling process, revisiting your words and discovering that you can recharge a scene in ways you couldn’t imagine the last time you read the manuscript.
But it’s also a terrifying thing.
One little edit throws up a thousand edits. Injecting nuance to a previously two dimensional character might mean weeks of re-imagining all the scenes the character features in.
Suddenly the revision is not just a quick edit but a total rewrite.
One novelist friend wrote me in an email:
I’m doing really well. The only thing is it's getting so I’m afraid I’m going to have to rewrite the whole novel!What to do?
I found the answer when I was half-watching a movie in the wee hours while contemplating my manuscript.
The film was Wonder Boys (2000), featuring Michael Douglas (pictured) as former award-winning novelist Grady Tripp who we are led to believe is suffering from writer’s block. Except he isn’t. The real problem is that he can’t stop writing – and the script has hit an unpublishable 2,000 plus single-spaced pages. His creative writing student Hannah (played by Katie Holmes) reads the tome and delivers the following critique:
Grady, you know how in class you are always telling us that writers make choices? And even though your book is really beautiful, I mean amazingly beautiful ... at times it’s ... uh ... very detailed. You know, the genaeologies of everybody’s horses and dental records and so on. And I could be wrong but it sort of reads in places like you didn’t make any choices. At all.What to do?
You’ve decided to edit your book.
So do it.