Written and Rewritten

Fewer things freak me out more than the thought of rereading something I wrote months ago, especially when I’ve been deliberately avoiding it.

First I have to describe my writing process: The initial stages involve fear, denial, distraction, more distraction, denial, British detective dramas and more denial. Once I pass those stages I actually manage to write something. I wrote the bulk of this particular work during last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Then, as is my usual procedure, I set it aside (i.e. didn’t print it out and didn’t look at it) for a few months. The theory is that when I finally read it again, I’ll have a fresh eyes and be able to look at it objectively and kill my darlings as necessary.

The problem is, with this work, which I printed last April, I read the first chapter and was overwhelmed with a mix of fear and disgust and doubt. The opening’s not bad as it is, it’s just the demands of the opening and the best way to present the necessary information all jammed together in one fit of panic. The other problem is that the typescript is too short to be marketable and I have to figure out how to add 20,000 or so words to it rather than figure out how to cut words from it.

With all this going on in my head, the typescript sat on my “to do/avoid” pile for a few weeks before I finally filed it away until I “had more time”. Then, this summer, when I actually had more time, I continued to avoid it until yesterday.

Because I had an unusual fear of the manuscript, I decided to try a different technique this time. Rather than reading it with a pen in hand, I would just read it like a book and then, if something bothered me, would track down a pen and mark the typescript.

This has worked pretty well. I can tell which parts need some work and have marked a few spots with purple ink and noticed which places seem to happen to quickly and which were just crap.

I also noticed which parts seemed pretty good. Those are the parts that scare me the most and I’ll have to give them extra scrutiny when I got through all this again some day.


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