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.