Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

I’ve been offline for far too long, trying to make my Facebook and a few Twitter posts make up for my lack of blogging. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that I am. I’m actually writing and having a lot of fun with it.

And something else is looming on the horizon.

My current work in progress is lovely. I’m in love with my characters and it’s set in New York, which is a city I love to write about. Not sure I’d want to live there, but I do love writing about it. I get caught up in the storyline, and the twists and turns of it reveal themselves a little more to me each day, so every time I sit at the computer, it’s an adventure.

But every now and then something else lifts its head like Nessie the sea monster and smirks at me with seaweed-stained teeth. Something that will take the joy—at least temporarily—out of my writing.

It’s the first draft of Movie Magic.

I don’t know if you remember Movie Magic. I wrote it way back in November during National Novel Writing Month, which was only the second NaNoWriMo I’ve ever finished. I have no delusions. Movie Magic is bound to be a mess since it actually started out as Pirate Magic and took a turn a third of the way through…and I obeyed the unwritten NaNo rule not to go back and fix what had gone wrong but just to plow through and get it done.

So it needs to be rewritten. Edited. Reworked. Sweated and bled over. I still owe this book a pound of flesh.

I know it’s coming after I finish the first draft of this as-yet-untitled new book. I plan to publish Movie Magic on October 31 (Halloween to the rest of the world, but always Houdini’s birthday to me). So eventually I must face it.

If you’re asking what the big deal is, you’re not a writer. Mark Twain once remarked that the best writers are the best rewriters. Because that’s the true test. Writing a book is one thing. Being able to open it up six months later and face the mess AND fix it…well, that’s a test of courage and willpower and skill.

Why rewriting might be easier for a “Pantser”, or the joy of the honeysuckle rose.

I’m a “pantser” (as in fly-by-the-seat-of) when it comes to writing. And everything else in my life. Anybody who’s ever tried to set up a playdate with my kids knows I don’t plan ahead. The best way to make plans with me is text me at the last minute. If I’m not doing anything, I’ll probably join you. On the other hand, I hate birthday parties. Trying to figure out what me and my kids are going to be doing two weeks from next Saturday at three o’clock in the afternoon? Ha! As if.

When it comes to writing, “pantser” (and I really prefer the term “organic writer” and please don’t call me a “paNSter”) means one simple thing. I don’t outline. I plunge in with a vague idea of where I’m going and who I’m going with (my characters) and plow through until I reach the finish line. Which is usually not where I thought it was when I started out. Which usually means I have a total mess to go back through when I’m done.

So why do I think rewriting is easier for me than someone who has plotted and planned and checked out every intersection of the race? (Ahem, not that writing is a race. It’s totally not.) Because, to move from racing to gardening metaphors, I don’t mind throwing out and cutting and replanting. Just for instance, a first reader told me a few months ago that the story I was telling in my current work-in-progress wouldn’t work. She had some great points, including the fact that my heroine was totally unsympathetic. (I’d been going for tough.) She made some suggestions for a total rewrite and I set the work aside for a few weeks. Now, coming back to it, I’ve got fresh eyes and I’m pulling weeds like crazy, trying to get at the heart of the novel.

What I’m getting at is that it’s not that abnormal for me to throw out three thousand words at a chunk. I may have spent an entire working day composing those words, but if I find it’s a weed and not a flower (haha), I don’t mind tossing them at all. But what if I’d plotted and planned and written those words and gotten the same reaction from a first reader? I don’t think it would be as easy to pull and prune and toss.

But then, if I planned and plotted, maybe the finish line would stay where it was supposed to be, huh? Just like a well-planned garden. But then I might never get a chance to find something like this:
honeysuckle rose

And that’s the true joy of being a pantser. Finding the heart in the middle of the massive mess of writing. A honeysuckle rose that nobody planned. Because there always is one. Even in a novel you have to completely rewrite.