This morning I sat down to rewrite the opening of my novel, The Smallest Thing, for what feels like the 4,000th time. I’ve been submitting the manuscript to agents and getting some really encouraging feedback. They love the premise, love the writing, but…something’s missing and that something is leading to “no”.
I’m, surprisingly, not too upset about this, because the same feeling has been niggling at me for some time, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was or how to fix it. After digging into the character work for my current work-in-progress, it became apparent to me where The Smallest Thing was falling short. And this week, after an amazing five-minute chat with a trusted mentor, I finally saw clearly what I need to do.
I’m both excited and relieved that the light bulb finally came on, but now I’m facing the very daunting task of scrapping almost 40 beloved pages and starting again. Not to mention that changing the opening will undoubtedly set off a chain reaction of fixes that will weave through the entire book. I definitely have my work cut out.
I’ve heard some authors say that they write three drafts of a book—one first draft, one major rewrite, one polish, and it’s done. I am not one of those writers. I twiddle and tweak and chop entire chapters and characters, only to put them back in as the story deepens. And openings are my personal Achilles heel. If I looked back through my files, I’ll bet I have at least ten completely different openings that I’ve written along the way.
But, what’s interesting to me about my tendency to completely rewrite is that is makes the actual writing more approachable. I know that the words I put down are not set in stone, they are not (quite literally) the final word, and that knowledge that I can always rewrite gives me the freedom to take chances. And that, I believe, increases my odds of eventually finding the perfect beginning.
I’ll let you know when I do.