If I had known the effort which is required to rewrite my manuscript, would I have written it in the first place? I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that my initial effort took me four years. I have no doubt it will take me just as long to rewrite.
It isn’t simply a matter of changing the words in a sentence or deleting a paragraph or two. The editor I gave my manuscript to has suggested a total overhaul. I must find new words to fill up at least three chapters. Huge chunks of what I have already written will be torn out and thrown away. If we were talking about a home renovation, it would be the equivalent of gutting the place, taking down walls and redoing the floor plan.
When I began this manuscript, a memoir about my father and our relationship, I was filled with anger at him and at the mess he had left me to clean up when he died. It was so easy to pour my emotions onto the page. Then I started to become curious about documents and letters I found when clearing out his house. But now the anger has dissipated and although I am still trying to satisfy my curiousity, I don’t have the same intensity.
So how do I keep my writing and rewriting on track? I have already changed my weekly routine to free up my weekends for writing. I no longer spend my Sunday shopping and cooking for the week, I now do that in fits and bursts after work. I leave the television off and keep logged out of Facebook and Twitter. I limit Google to research. Despite my efforts I am still only on Chapter two.
But, how do I maintain the enthusiasm I once had for my memoir? This is not easy for me. I already know the ending. But I have found reading books with similar stories helps. And I still get excited if I discover the answer to one of the puzzles my father left behind.
Apparently, Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” At the moment, I feel as if I’ve been given a mountain of rock to sculpt with nothing but a small chisel to use.