Kirvin on Writing

The journey of a reluctant writer

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Damnable Logic of Rewrites

After some fits and starts, I was making headway re-editing Between Heaven and Hell for print publication. I had polished the first two chapters until they gleamed and was starting on a third when a nagging feeling started to sink in on me. I should know better and ignore these feelings; they never lead to anything happy. As is my usual practice when I want to take something unhappy and make it worse, I IMed Josh Curry, my writing partner:

me: I'm re-editing BHH and for the first half of the book, I'm mostly tightening the prose and updating any tech references. The web was very young when I wrote this book and cell phones were rare.

But starting from Point/Counterpoint on, I'm wondering how much I should polish and how much I should re-write.

The declaration of Martial Law in Crusade and the later totalitarian theocracy of Michael might be richer, writing them now, in light of current events.

Josh: Here's how I see it, you're trying to get this published in today's world, when it comes to tech and politics, if it was just a rewrite to publish it the way it was already published, then I'd say go with your gut, seeing as your trying to sell this as a contemporary book I'd say rewrite anything that gives it a more current feel. It ain't the easy route, but I think it's the better one.

He's right, of course. I just hate that. To really have the best chance at being published, to be the best book it can be, I really need to rewrite Between Heaven and Hell from the ground up. For two reasons.

One, it would actually be easier to write it again set in the 21st century than it would to go back and alter all the tiny details and their consequences. For example, in the first chapter of the book Daniel comes across a horrific car crash. He does not whip out his cell phone and dial 911. When I started the book in 1995, Daniel didn't have a cell phone and neither did I. Now my friend's 12-year-old daughter has one. Susan does a lot of research over the net, but the net was very primitive in 1996 compared to today. And don't get me started on Gmail accounts and NSA surveillance and how Daniel could really stay underground on two different occasions.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I've changed a lot as a writer in the past ten years. As I revised the prose in those first two chapters, I noticed myself changing clumsy phrasing that I couldn't bring myself to write today. I'm not just talking about adverbs, those pesky buggers, but tons of heavy-handed exposition and stilted dialogue. I could scarcely continue to look down my nose at Dan Brown if I published stuff like that myself.

So it's literally back to the drawing board. I'm keeping the same plot and characters as the original novel, of course, and will probably keep most of the chapter structure and titles, but all the narrative and dialogue (basically, the book) will be new. I'm once again sitting down to write a novel from beginning to end.

Fortunately, I have an 80,000 word treatment for reference.


  • At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Writing a Research Paper said…

    Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.


Post a Comment

<< Home