Writing is rewriting, according to a meme I saw on Twitter some years ago. I didn’t know then who said it originally (I googled, it was Ernest Hemingway) but the first time I saw it, it was on Twitter. And it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time – one of those sound bytes you see on social media I thought – snappy, but without substance. Oh how little I knew.
Because of course writing is indeed rewriting – or more to the point, the first draft is just that – a first draft. Nobody writes a 100,000 word manuscript and gets it published as is – you write it, then you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. And it’s the not fun bit. It’s not creative – well, not to the same extent as writing is. When you’re writing, when it’s flowing, it’s exciting – it could take you anywhere. It’s productive; there’s output. There are new words on a page where before there were no words. It’s literally (very literally) creating something new.
Rewriting, in comparison, can feel a bit meh. I didn’t know this until I finished my first draft of my first book and discovered that rather than whizzing it off to a friendly agent or publisher as is, I’d need to set about rewriting it – because that’s what everyone does. To the very wet behind the ears writer, this was a bit of a shock. And more than a bit demotivating. I’d written the first draft in six months – feverishly tapping the keys at night, wanting to get to the end. Pacing the floor, plotting out loud. Knowing roughly where it was going, but still often taken by surprise. And perhaps it’s that last bit that makes writing so much more enjoyable than rewriting – the surprise. Just when you think you know where the story is going to go, it veers left. A character does something completely unexpected but in hindsight, utterly clear. A minor sub-plot becomes key to the main story. It’s exciting, it’s exhausting, but it’s always new.
Rewriting – not so much. It’s not new anymore. It’s about fixing and changing and chipping away. Fine tuning and cutting. Rewording and revamping. It has its moments – there’s a certain enjoyment to the crafting side – especially if done without pressure. Chipping at the words like carving wood; slowly, minutely, until they’re just right.
Except of course, sometimes they’re not just right – which is why there’s a third draft, and a fourth and… well, Hemingway apparently rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times. But whatever about the successful writer with a slew of bestsellers behind him, what of the starting out writer who has no book deal yet and doesn’t know if anyone will ever read those carefully crafted rewrites?
That’s what I wondered after my experience at Date With An Agent in 2015. I had been selected as one of 75 people to meet with an agent, and was nervous and excited about meeting Clare Wallace of Darley Anderson. She had read my first 1500 words and my synopsis and had detailed feedback for me. She said the book started out like domestic noir, but that the synopsis suggested it went on to become historical fiction. She said that I should consider rewriting it – as either a full domestic noir, or full historical fiction. Rewriting. That dreaded word. And not just a chapter here or there – not just chipping at a sentence to change the flow. Rewriting half the book.
Afterwards, lovely writing friends tried to show me the positives – I had half a book written, now I just needed to write the other half. But it was too big a climb for me – I couldn’t be absolutely certain it was the right thing to do, and with my heart not in it, it was too big a gamble to take. So I put my half-domestic-noir-half-historical-fiction manuscript on the shelf.
But two years later, I did rewrite it – albeit with the motivating factor of a book deal. I took Clare Wallace’s Date with an Agent advice and made it a domestic noir. I tore up all the chapters set in the past, and in the end, I tore up almost all of the chapters set in the present too. Just one chapter remained intact – one of 79. Because for me, rewriting was easier when it was just writing – new pages, new people, new words, new twists.
(c) Andre Mara
About The Other Side of the Wall:
There s something up with the people next door…
When Sylvia looks out her bedroom window and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door.
Wondering if night feeds and sleep deprivation are getting to her, she puts it out of her mind until a week later, when she hears the sound of a man crying through her bedroom wall.
Sam is the man living next door to Sylvia. He had hoped the new house would fix everything, but it s off to a bad start. And for him, it s about to get unimaginably worse.
Kate is Sam s wife. She s fed up with his late nights at work, until a letter brings everything crashing down around her.
A local child goes missing, then Sylvia s own daughter wakes one night screaming that there s a man in her room. Sylvia s husband insists it s all in her mind, but she is increasingly certain it s not there s something very wrong on the other side of the wall.
Pre-Order your copy online here.