Things are getting quite exciting in Simonville. I received the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) for Accidents Waiting To Happen last week and the preproduction galleys a couple of months ago. The book will be on bookshelves in six weeks.
So, am I satisfied with the end product? No, not really.
The problem is every time I read the book, I want to tinker, and boy have I done some tinkering. Just to explain, Accidents was first published in 2002 by a small press. When I submitted the manuscript, I considered it to be the final draft. When the rights returned back to me in 2005, I decided I wanted to get the book republished. It didn’t get a fair crack in the marketplace and I wanted to see if I could resell it. It would have been easy to shove the thing in the mail without looking at it, but I thought I should give the book the once over before sending it. I rewrote the book. If you compare 2002 version with the 2007 version, the first sentence isn’t even the same. This wasn’t some manic aberration; I saw how I could do things better. I’d changed as a writer. Accidents was the first major thing I started writing back in ’98. During the re-read, I saw things that I didn’t see back then. Better things. Sharper things. The book didn’t need a polish. It needed stripping back to the bare wood, a coat of fresh stain applied then some lacquer. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the original, but I saw a different way of telling the same story. I think the revised and updated version is a reflection of me as a more grown up writer (please take the grownup part with a pinch of salt. On second thought make that a fist of salt).
So, am I satisfied with the new and improved end product? No, not really.
The problem is when I received the galleys a little while ago, I saw there was room for tweaks. A little touch here. A little touch there. A cute new angle on a couple of the scenes. Maybe my bad guy should drive one of those Pontiac Solstices? I like those. He’d look mega bad in one of those bad boys. I had to stop myself at that point. I wasn’t making changes for changes sake, but each day I saw a different point of view on the story. I’m always going to see spots where I could change a word, detail or even a scene.
A common question I get asked is how many drafts I go through before the book is ready. The last draft is when I’m sick of looking at the damn thing. There’s a point when I’ve put everything into the story that I can possibly put into it. This point usually comes after spending two hours debating with the cats on whether a character should tie his necktie in a Windsor or half-Windsor knot. Unfortunately, put a few months distance between the manuscript and me and my brain has had time to come up with new ideas on the same subject. I shouldn’t be allowed to think. This is why I haven’t read the ARCs for Accidents and I don’t plan on doing so. Enough is enough. The book is finished. It’s as good as it’s going to be. The real answer to how many drafts I need to write before the book is ready is there is no final draft. I can always make improvements. As I improve as a writer, I get more critical of my work. I can always do better.
So am I satisfied with the final end product? Yes, I am. I think Accidents is a good book and I hope everyone else will too…
Congrats Simon. Looking forward to reading the new and improved version.
Sounds like you got a chance for a “do over” of sorts. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that chance once in a while in everyday life?
Simon,You have shown exactly why rewriting is more important than writing.
So many writers – especially newer writers – are so excited to finish, and it’s been such a task to complete, that they think nothing more can be done to a manuscript or screenplay.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard writers say “It’s done – I can’t make it any better” and then weeks or months later, they look at it with fresh eyes and realize things they were unable to see earlier.
I believe the quality of books would soar if writers weren’t in such a hurry to get published. If they focused more on writing the best book possible – which often means stepping away from it for a while.
I hear some screaming right now – “What if you have a deadline!!!” Well, write faster, write better, and then you’ll have more time to step away and come back before the thing’s due.
And also – none of this is directed at you personally, Simon. I simply took your post as a chance to jump on my soapbox about writers who don’t understand that stepping away from a piece of material can be as important to it as plowing through.
Every time I finish a book, I hate the one before it, but discover the one before that wasn’t bad.
Gillian Roberts says that a writer is someone who would like to keep tinkering with the epitaph on his tombstone.
LouiseStill tinkering here
Louise, you should see the scratch out on my headstones.
I’m never satisfied.
Elaine, we’re talking writing here, honey. Writing.
On my personal blog other have said that I may be a perfectionist. I would say, I’m far from being a perfectionist. I’m fueled by insecurity if I’m honest. I don’t want to put something out there that people will say is crap, so I have to do my absolute best.
Apparently Mr. Guyot should perhaps think about plowing through a novel before stepping away. At least once. One time. Just once. See the end and go for it. One single time. Just one time. You can do it, Paul. Once.
And you should not pick on Elaine.
Guyot said: “Write faster, write better.”
Oxymoron, for some of us.
Lee Smith once did a reading and confessed that while she was reading out loud to the audience, she was editing the text (directly on the pages in the book) with a pencil as she went!
I think b/c we are humans who grow and develop throughout our lives, we will never stop being able to edit something we’ve written.
I could use some of that “Write Faster, Write Better” potion… 🙂
Ok, now I have to buy the new improved version….credit card at the ready.
Billie: I’ve done what Lee Smith did. i’m preparing to read and the red pen comes out.
Aldo: You’re my kind of reader. I just need a million people like you and I’m set. 🙂
Listen, Guyot – I WAS talking about writing, and not you.
Jim? Thank you darling. I promise to be kind to you now when you’re On The Bubble.
What a wonderful opportunity you’ve had, Simon! Letting go of something that’s been a part of yourself for so long is tough. But how wise, I think, to leave the ARCs be.
Me wise. That’s a first for me… 🙂
Wow, I never even considered that you could rewrite and republish a book just 3 years after it first came out.
But that’s fabulous. Or – not.
I edit before readings, too.
Alex: I have the luxury that the original book wasn’t widely available, so I could rewrite without any problems…I hope. 🙂