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The Rewriting Process: When is it time to stop?

Sprouts growing from a severed maple tree trunk

Some people clean their houses in spring and fall, but me? I rewrite the manuscript for my children’s book. I’ve been known to revise in summer and winter. And if there was a fifth season, I’d probably be rewriting then, too.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve reworked this novel. I literally can’t—I’ve lost count. At a guess, I’m up to Revision # 145.

I’m beginning to think my rewriting process is broken. When is it time to stop???

Rewriting Helps Me Learn

I’m a whiz at whipping out scientific reports, but even my best friends would not call them great literature. There are spoilers in the first paragraph. Tables interrupt the flow of action. And the climax? It’s usually a nail-biter like, “See Figure 4.” Suspense and character-building do not exist in technical writing.

So I took classes, webinars, and workshops to learn how to write fiction. I studied how-to books. I joined critique groups. I recruited beta readers. I read other novels in my genre. And after each, I practiced what I’d learned by revising the manuscript again, hoping each time that the new version would sparkle.

And it’s SO close…

I Love This Book’s Characters

I could have started a different story, but I can’t abandon the people who live in this one. Funny, impulsive Sam. Determined, logical Rose. Fun-loving, understanding Grampa. And even Craig, the local bully, has a place in my heart.

My Method Of Finding An Agent Stinks

After writing a book, the next step to publication is finding an agent who will sell the manuscript for a percentage of the profits. How does the hopeful author do this? By emailing every agent who has ever touched, looked at, or Googled a book in that genre. This missive is known as a query letter, and it’s a delicate balance between a business letter, advertisement, and groveling. My method goes something like this:

Step 1. Send query letter to 5 agents.

Step 2. Receive 5 rejections.

Step 3. Rewrite query letter.

Step 4. Repeat first 3 steps until I’ve submitted to 30 different agents.

Step 5. Receive 30 rejections.

Step 6. Rewrite manuscript.

Step 7. Repeat first 6 steps for the rest of my life.

Step 8. Require executor of my estate to continue the process.

I do not recommend this technique to anyone except vampires who are bored with immortality and need distraction.

I Accidentally Hired A Developmental Editor. Is This My Last Rewrite?

I might have continued following my query method straight through Step 8, but I made a monumental move this summer. I hired an editor to read the manuscript and find big-picture problems, like plot holes, characters who should be killed off or beefed up, etc.

I never intended to do this.

When I offered to hire a relative who had been in the publication business but is now studying for The Unnatural Disaster Formerly Known As The Massachusetts Bar Exam, I thought she wouldn’t have time. But the date of the test was postponed—more than once—AND she was born with an unfair share of the family’s organizational DNA. (I’m not bitter about this. Not at all.)

But, Reader, what she recommended is amazing. Hiring her was worth every penny and might get me off the rewriting hamster wheel I’ve been on.

But I still need to make the revisions she suggested, so please excuse me while I work on My Final Rewrite. Sam is in the middle of Project Show-I’m Responsible, and I can’t wait to see what happens this time!

Interested in reading more humorous posts about my writing life? Try TO WRITE AS FUNNY AS I CAN, THE TRAVELING WRITER, and I ONCE KNEW HOW TO CODE.


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