Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rewriting, foul is thy name

x-posted for the Evo blog

I never cared for the term, "rewriting". It draws to mind a tossed manuscript languishing in the circular file as it jealously watches the author drag out the laptop to open a clean, blank doc. I realize rewriting is used in place of "editing" or "revising" but true rewriting is exactly what it sounds like. I never rewrite. If the manuscript required telling, I've told it. If it required telling differently, I'd have written it differently.

This situation came up recently with one of my publishers. The hitch was this: I submitted a manuscript for a sequel. The original book was well-received by the readers and the second book gained accolades from my editor who felt the story would not only do very well for me financially, but she enjoyed the edgy nature of the book. She was excited. Alas, a shake up occurred and I was redirected to a new editor. Mind you, my contract paperwork was already in process and approved shortly after the new editor was assigned. An email notified me that the book would be reviewed and returned to me with first edits in approximately eight weeks. It should have been my first warning because the manuscript had already been reviewed and in edits when the first editor issued the contract. Well the second editor didn't take eight weeks but she did send me a long, vaguely worded email about completely rewriting the book. It involved changing the personalities of the heroine, the hero, and the antagonist. It meant changing the prophecy and changing the main plot. It meant rewriting all the sex scenes (yes, all, and if you know my work, there are more than a few). It meant rewriting the dynamics between the two main characters, the heroine and the antagonist, and the hero and the antagonist. It amounted to a new book. It would not have been the book contracted and it would not have been the story which needed to be told in order to carry off the next books in the series. It also would have changed an already established "world" created for that series. Given it inconsistencies.

I'm a firm believer in edits and improvements. I adore my editors and value their knowledge. Their names are on the work as well and it reflects back on them when poor work is issued. For this reason, I defer to their judgment almost one hundred percent of the time, even if I disagree (though I might say so in a marginal comment). But this rewriting is shit. Why did I object?

Rewriting means "new". It means writing again the story that has already been told. It does not mean tweaking or altering or editing or changing to comply. It means a brand new story, written differently than the effort already put forth. I will rewrite a scene. I won't rewrite a book. Rewrite says to me, "I don't like this one. Send in another." And that is all well and good. That I can do, but I won't toss out a manuscript I've labored over, open a brand new document to pound out another 65k with the same characters and a different plot, setting, or personality. I suppose you can sense I feel strongly about this, yes?

Perhaps it is semantics. However, I say what I mean whenever possible. If an editor is suggesting revision of a scene, reworking of a scene, editing of a scene, say so. Rewriting is just another form of current manuscript rejection. It's the perogative of the editor and therefore within her/his power to do so. If it doesn't sit well the way it is, reject it and I'll move on. Rewriting? Pffft. It's a cop-out.


Amber Skyze said...

I'd ask what became of the book, but I think I already know. Great post.

Rassles said...

And technically, changing a character's behavior is creating an entirely new character.

Are you crazy insulted? I would be crazy insulted.

Mia Watts said...

Amber- yep, I'm sure you do.

Rass- Oddly, no. I'm baffled, pissed, annoyed as hell to have to fight for the rights on a story they clearly didn't want. I'm in disbelief that they won't let the story go even though a lawyer filed and certified that they no longer have rights. I'm also never writing for that publisher again.