Give the Lady a Ride–the Rewrite

Lately I’ve been haunted by a phrase I remember reading somewhere: “The first draft of a book is the author telling himself the story.”

For anyone who writes, especially us seat-of-the-pansters, that sentence ought to be forefront in our minds–we ought to recognize that telling ourselves the story doesn’t make it ready for publishers. Tweaking it here and there, polishing a word, rearranging a sentence–these little editorial exercises don’t constitute a rewrite.

And, as I am learning, writing is rewriting. I’ve fooled myself into believing Ride was ready for the publishing circuit, when truth be told, it is only a well-polished first draft.

Give the Lady a Ride has been getting mixed reviews from those I’ve sent it to: two agents have liked it; another agent believed it wasn’t quite ready yet, but liked it well enough to respond to my query and say so; one publisher loved my writing, hated my characters (ouch)–but took the time to say so (that really is a big deal, believe me); and one published author believed the only thing wrong with it was a weak plot (ouch again). Of the two agents who liked it, one I lost within a week by being stupid (good thing, too–we’d both be feeling foolish right now. By the way: Never write in your blog things you should keep to yourself–like doubts about a new agent). The other, bless her heart and soul, is patiently awaiting my rewrite, since I withdrew the book from consideration. (I have dubbed her my “almost-agent”–she was willing to pitch the novel to publishers even though she wasn’t quite willing to enter into a contract with me. We’ve been in touch since I withdrew the book, and I still have hopes of replacing the “almost” with “my” agent).

I have a lot to learn about rewriting: how to divorce myself from my book and see it with new eyes. How to make my readers see what I see in my characters so they can love them like I do. How to fortify the story I’ve told myself until it’s strong enough to hold everyone captive.

James Scott Bell wrote an instructional book, Revision & Self-Editing, which I’ve been studying for over a month (holiday activities and the flu have made a long chore of a short work). He has a line early in the book which has become my mantra: It can be fixed. After working some of the exercises he suggested, I’m convinced he’s right. I’m also convinced that my good book can be made considerably better, and I’m excited about that.
So: My 2010 Writing Resolution #1 is to rewrite Give the Lady a Ride and send it to my almost-agent at least by the end of February, hopefully earlier. Afterward, it’s in God’s hands. It will either get published or it won’t. I started it in November 2007, “finished” it in 2008, and spent 2009 stressing over it getting accepted by the powers that be. I’m ready to move on to–
2010 Writing Resolution #2: Finish telling myself the story of The Cat Lady’s Secret.
Of course, if my hopes and dreams come true, and Give the Lady a Ride gets published, then I’ll have to write the second in the “Ranch, Rodeo and Revival” trilogy, Roping Venus. And I’d love to write “the end” on the first draft of my first drama, Corporate Ladder. But for 2010, I just have the two resolutions.
And since this is the first Monday of the New Year, there’s no better time to get started.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Writing How-To Books, Writing Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Give the Lady a Ride–the Rewrite

  1. Sandra King says:

    “The first draft of a book is the author telling himself the story.”

    This looks like a keeper quote!

    So does “It can be fixed.”

    And the stuff about how to divorce and fortify.

    In fact, this post sparkles with little gold nuggets.

    Another good thing to remember is that our disappointment is God’s appointment. Thanks for sharing the treasure!

    Is the call to writing one of His tools to teach us patience?

    P.S. And I get a book? Wahoo!!


  2. pprmint777 says:

    Oh-I like that: “Our disappointment is God’s appointment”! Thanks for that!!!


  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    I’m about to dive into major rewrites for Dreamers Come. Here’s hoping we can both get our stories licked into shape!


  4. pprmint777 says:

    I know you can–I’ve read your books, and they prove it. We just have to wait and see if I can!


  5. Winter Peck says:

    I came to this realization with 5 Second Penalty in October and decided it was time to shelve it for now until I can devote more time to it. The story will change and it seems so will the series. Suffice to say, those characters will get a new start once I can get back to them.

    Right now I’m totally focused on taking my writing in a new direction/calling. Seems historical suspense is becoming a thing to watch and well, I love both and seem to write both well.

    I love revising, because it makes the story better. I hate writing the 1st draft, but must in order to get the story out so I can edit it. I can’t wait to finish this historical’s 1st draft so I can begin the edits. Jim Bell’s Edit book is the next thing on my TBB (to be bought) list.


  6. pprmint777 says:

    5 Second Penalty had such promise! I hope you don’t give up on it entirely.

    I hope I love revising, too. I have ideas of what I can do. I just hope they’re good ones!


  7. Shaddy says:

    I admire you for your detemination and willingness to do the hard work involved in rewriting.

    I wish you the best as you go forward.


    • pprmint777 says:

      Thanks, Shaddy. I’ll be updating this site as I go. Katie gave me the idea of a writer’s diary, and I’ll be using this as my diary for awhile. Y’all will be able to see all my flaws and disappointments!


  8. Annie says:

    Two things I LOVE about this post…
    It can be fixed and it is in God’s hands.
    One of my resolutions is giving it up and letting God. Easy? Not always…better, yes. And with Him in your corner, you can accomplish anything, fix anything and publish anything.
    I BELIEVE IN YOU!!!! Don’t ever lose your tenacity!!!
    I will keep you in my prayers as you continue this journey.


  9. pprmint777 says:

    Thanks so much for your prayers, Annie. I think I’ll need them!


  10. Seeing the story with new eyes is the hardest thing of all for me. I put away a manuscript after giving it a thorough going-over, and a month later it has developed glaring horrors and unnecessary complications. I’ve learned you can never overestimate the time it takes to polish a script so it is really ready for outsiders’ eyes.


    • pprmint777 says:

      It is hard to see with new eyes. I put it away for a bit, and it’s like the cold cream came out and wiped all the pretty make-up off my creation! I just wonder how folks do it who publish several novels a year. Maybe they don’t have this problem.


  11. Sandra King says:

    A writer’s diary! That will be fun. I’ll love walking the journey with you.

    I’m wondering if I should do something else with my site. Or at least have a focus instead of so eclectic.


  12. pprmint777 says:

    Mine is *very* eclectic which, I’m hearing from the experts, is not a good thing. Blogs should have themes. Fortunately, I have a few loyal readers who put up with my scatter-brained postings!


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